Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.08.22

Susan Stewart, Wesley D. Smith, Euripides' Andromache.   Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2001.  Pp. 75.  ISBN 0-19-512561-4.  $9.95 (pb).  

Reviewed by Robert Brophy, University College of Syracuse University (

This fine translation is made to be spoken by actors on stage; from reading aloud, it serves the purpose well. It is accurate, modern, colloquial in a good sense. It seems to follow the Oxford Clarendon text without variant.

One addition to the translation is triple repetition of a "natural" pun in English, which goes back at least to Chaucer's "Troy hath been destroyed": 1) p. 20 ll. 105-06: "War came ... to destroy / you, Troy," Τροία, ... εἷλέ σ' ... Ἄρης (Andromache 106); 2) p. 28 l. 368: "it was Troy you destroyed," changed from ὤλεσας Φρυγῶν πόλιν (Andromache 363); 3) p. 54 ll. 1252-53: "Nor is Troy destroyed," ἀνάστατον ́ γένος ... τροίας (Andromache 1249-51). Changing from "Phrygia" to Troy seems fine to me, to make a recurring English poetic play on words. In example 1, "War" is Ares; most other times Stewart & Smith (hereafter S & S) use the god's name, not the idea personified.

Good uses of alliteration, to match others on different sounds, sometimes at different lines, in the Greek, are p. 20, ll. 114-16 "as Hermione's slave? Hounded and harried without a respite, I have thrown myself"; p. 25 l. 265 "do you really defy death?"; p. 26, ll. 293-95 "words sweet to hear, but fatal/ for the Phrygian city,/ fatal to the walls of Troy," keeping the sound but slightly changing the sense of Andromache 289-92: λόγοις, τερπνοῖς μὲν ἀκοῦσαι, πικρὰν δὲ σύγχυσιν βίου Φρυγῶν πόλει ... περγάμοις τε τροίας; p. 28 l. 371 "true that these are merely trifles, true"; and l. 384: "waiting is for the weak, not the wise"; p. 23, ll. 227-28 "wet-nurse offering my breasts to your bastards, to show you I was not bitter,"with fine discussion of themes in this key passage, which paints a degrading or ennobling picture of the completely submissive wife, depending on how you read women's status in Euripides' eye, or his great irony.

Another dramatic irony is p. 28 l. 376: "a very great matter to be robbed of one's mate," spoken by Menelaus about Hermione, but even more obviously about himself and Helen and the whole Trojan War. Peleus picks up on this later, p. 35, ll. 593-99: "you, a coward descended from cowards, claim / to be a man? Why ...? You lost your wife to a mere Phrygian! You left / your house without a lock or guard; you thought / she was a faithful wife, when really she was / the world's most wanton!" And p. 36, ll. 611-13, "You should have spat her out, not lifted a spear / once you found her faithless, and left her in Troy -- / even paid her not to come back!"

P. 23, l. 207, "Andromache the obscure, a Trojan nobody," expands Andromache 204, ἀμαυρά.

Two spots only I would change, both where S & S can exactly copy the Greek: 1) p. 24, l. 248: "A clever wit -- too bad you have to die," but good English usage could match Hermione's Greek repetition, σοφὴ σοφὴ σύ (Andromache 245), with, for example, "Clever, clever, you. But you still must die!"; 2) they miss one significant echo, which also happens to be an Aeschylean echo, in γοργὸς ὁπλίτης in Andromache 458 and 1123. At 458: "you look gorgon-fierce in full armor, and will kill me," Andromache tells Menelaus. Then at 1123 Neoptolemus stands on the altar "gorgon-fierce in full armor and shouted at the sons of Delphi." He charges and scatters the Delphian mob attacking him, and nearly wins through, till Apollo's voice stops him and he falls, hacked by each one, like Hector, Andromache's first husband, in Iliad 22. S & S miss the echo and say on p. 31 ll. 462-64: "You're such a fierce / warrior now, standing up to a woman. Kill me! Kill on!" They change it later, p. 51, ll. 1124-26: "took his stand / at an altar, turning his terrible face / toward them." They should have made the two lines echo each other (e.g., by a sarcasm like, "such a gorgon-fierce warrior now, aren't you? You stand up to a woman."). I also think Euripides echoes Aeschylus' phrase for warrior Parthenopaeus at 7 v. Thebes 537, γοργὸν ὄμμα: "with fierce eye," literally copied in Euripides Phoenician Women 146, Suppliants 322.

Possibly, S & S might expand p. 32, l. 294 "godless graceless slaughter," in Greek a triple assonance, ἄθεος ἄνομος ἄχαρις φόνος (Andromache 491). One puzzle to me S & S take right from the Greek: p. 36, l. 640, "even if he's three times a bastard," matches Andromache 636, τρὶς νόθος. For a nice echo, S & S use the Greek noun "Symplegades" even where Euripides does not specifically name them as such: on p. 41 ll. 800-02, the Chorus mention "the Crashing Rocks, ... the Symplegades front / the raging sea," both naming them and translating the name (Andromache 794). Then on p. 43 ll. 865-68, Hermione prays: "How I wish I were a dark-winged bird, / that I could soar far from Phthia, / or that I were that pine-planked ship / that sailed through the Symplegades," though Andromache 864-68 does not mention Symplegades by name, repeating rather the "dark" κυαν- root in κυανόπτερος ὄρνις and κυανέας ἐπέρασεν ἀκτάς πρωτόπλοος. This κυαν- repetition is imported into the chorus at p. 47 ll. 1014f.: "Poseidon, ... drawn by your storm-gray mares / over the storm-gray sea," translating κυανέαις ἵπποις ... ἅλιον πέλαγος (Andromache 1010f.). Pp. 54-55, ll. 1256-60, nice internal rhyme and alliteration balance assonance of alpha-negatives in the Greek: "for your marriage to me, I will set you free / from mortal sorrow and make you a god -- / you will never know death or decay. And we shall dwell, as a god and goddess, in the house/of Nereus from this time until forever," matching Andromache 1256, ἀθάνατον ἄφθιτον; and continue nicely, p. 55, ll. 1261-62, "as you walk, dry-shod, out of / the depths of the sea, you will find your son and mine," matching Andromache 1260, πόντου πόδα ... παῖδ'. P. 55, ll. 1267-69 "Sepias" where Thetis and Peleus met, is called in expanded explanation "that place/ where the cuttlefish swim."

This text works very well for reading aloud and dramatic production; the translation is good for a Classical literature course; it would help someone reading Andromache in Greek. It has excellent discussions of dramatic irony and of dramatic possibilities in performance (pp. 3-14), Notes (pp. 57-62), and Glossary (pp. 63-67).

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