I picked up my GOVT 006 (“Political Ideas”) textbook today to see if I wanted to take the class. It’s basically a compilation of a bunch of famous political/ethical/moral writings: The Prince, Nicomachean Ethics, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and so on. I was surprised to see that the first text is Sophocles’s play Antigone, about the daughter/half-sister of Oedipus and the turmoil in Thebes after the king’s death. Thinking it might be interesting, I started reading it. Sure enough, it was interesting: the daughters of Oedipus argue about whether or not they should retrieve one of their dead brothers in order to give him a proper burial against their uncle Creon’s will. Then Creon starts talking to the chorus (which is supposed to be the council of elders of the city) about how important it is that nobody does what Antigone just decided to do in the previous scene (that is, get the corpse of her brother Polyneices and give it a decent burial). “Awesome,” I thought to myself, “dramatic tension.” Then a watchman shows up and ruins the scene. How? This is what the watchman says:
“[Summary: I walked here very slowly, stopped a lot and considered turning around.] My mind kept talking to me. It said, ‘You poor guy,/Why are you going there? You’ll just get your ass kicked.’/Then it said, ‘Are you stopping again, you damn fool?/If Creon hears this from another man, he’ll give you hell.’ ”
Wow. I don’t know if this is just me being weird, and maybe the guy literally says this, but is seems a little strange to interrupt a serious speech about how Polyneices was going to drive Thebes to ruin with goofy colloquialisms, especially from an extremely low-ranking guardsman, bearing bad news to the king. That’s like going up to the CEO of whatever company you work for and saying, “Yo man, I almost didn’t tell you this because I knew you’d kick my ass, but, uh, I just saw your Lexus explode. It was hilarious.” It just seems like the translator either tried a little too hard to tranlate the rough or crude nature of the man’s speech, or he/she wanted to inject something to make the text “more accessible.” It really took me out of the story.
[Featured image: en.wikipedia.org.]