[124] PRAEFATIO in Phoenissas.

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Haec fabula nomen sortita est a Choro, qui ex Phoenissis mulieribus constabat: quae cum ad Delphicum Apollinem ire uellent ac obiter Cadmeam domum inuiserent* forte fortuna in istam belli calamitatem inciderunt. Est autem admodum tragica ac plena uehementibus affectibus: id quod †praesentis argumenti atrocitas postulat. Quid enim horribilius ac cruentius quam duorum fratrum mutua caedes? quam funestiorem reddidit matris interuentus et ultroneus casus. Quid acerbius clade illa et interitu tot heroum et ducum? Quid porro miserabilius quam Antigonen geminos fratres una cum matre confuso in sanguine se uolutantes ac cum morte luctantes aspicere? Accedunt his tristissimum nuntium Oedipo allatum de filiorum et coniugis Iocastae interitu miserrimo: Menoecei uita pro patriae salute impensa: Oedipi senis et caeci exilium: Polynices insepultus et infletus uolucribus ac bestiis obiectus. Quae omnia tanto artificio poeta tractat ut etiam ferreum aut adamantinum pectus concutere ac mouere queant. At unde tanta rerum immanitas scatuit? an non e dominandi cupiditate ac discordia? Haec enim ἀργαλέη, πολέμοιο τέρας μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχουσα, inuasit aeuo uigentes iuuenes: μέγα δὲ σθένος ἑκάστῳ καρδίῃ, ἄλληκτον πολεμίζειν ἤδε μάχεσθαι, ut Homericis uersibus utar: illa sic illorum animos incenderat ut iam fas et nefas iuxta putarent. Nam Eteocles accepto Thebarum regno, fratrem legitima parte priuat terraque expellit. Eo siquidem hominem impulerat regnandi auiditas, ut foedus, pacta, parentes, ius denique ipsum, et deos testes uiolaret. Polynices indigne patria eiectus Argos profugit: et fortuna sic uolente Adrasti regis Argiuorum filiam uxorem ducit. Indigno autem animo ferens se hereditaria imperii paterni portione fraudari, soceri auxilio in regnum restitui cupit: unde contractis ex omni Graecia ingentibus copiis in Boeotiam proficiscitur, ut per uim reciperet ademptam sibi ditionis per uices administrandae partem, si non sponte frater concederet.

[124 in marg.]* Propter cognationem Phoenicum et Thebanorum.

[124 in marg.]† Tractauit prior Euripide idem argumentum Aeschylus, sed alio modo, in Septem apud Thebas: sic enim inscribitur illa fabula apud eum. Nam sunt illic personae pauciores. Eteocles pius introducitur: pleraque nuntii narrationes occupant. De Menoeceo prorsus siletur.

This play received its name from the Chorus, which was composed of Phoenician women: when they wished to go to Delphian Apollo and visited the House of Cadmus along the way,* by chance they fell into that calamity of war. Moreover, the play is completely tragic and full of strong emotions: that is what the harshness of the †present argument demands. For what is more horrible or polluted than the mutual slaughter of two brothers? The intervention of their mother and her voluntary death has rendered it even more mournful. What is bitterer than that destruction and death of so many heroes and commanders? Furthermore, what is more miserable than the fact that Antigone sees her twin brothers together with their mother wallowing in their mingled blood and struggling with death? Added to these points are: the very sorrowful message conveyed to Oedipus regarding the very miserable death of his sons and wife Jocasta; the life of Menoeceus expended for the salvation of the state; the exile of old and blind Oedipus; Polynices, unburied and unwept, being exposed to birds and beasts. The poet handles all these with such great skill that they can rouse and move even the iron or adamantine heart. Yet from where did such great cruelty of affairs gush forth? Did it not stem from lust for power and discord? For this “troublesome Strife, possessing a portent of battle in her hands,” assailed the flourishing youths: [she instilled] a great strength in each man’s heart, to war and fight ceaselessly,” to make use of Homeric verses. In this way she had inflamed their spirits so that considered right and wrong the same. For Eteocles, having received the kingdom, robs his brother of his legitimate portion and expels him from the land. Accordingly, covetousness of rule had driven the man to such a degree that he violated alliance, agreements, parents, and finally justice itself and the gods as witnesses. Polynices, having been cast out of his country dishonorably, flees to Argos: and, with fortune thus willing it, he marries the daughter of Adrastus, king of the Argives. However, feeling indignant that he was cheated out of his inherited portion of his father’s dominion, he desires to restore himself in the kingdom with the aid of his father-in-law: from here he marches into Boeotia with a huge force assembled from all of Greece, in order to forcibly regain the part of their alternating administration of rule that had been taken from him, if his brother would not voluntarily concede.

[124 in marg.]* Because of the blood relationship between Phoenicians and Thebans.

[124 in marg.]† Aeschylus treated the same plot before Euripides, but in a different way, in his Seven Against Thebes: thus, that plot is entitled with him. For there are fewer characters in that one. Eteocles is introduced as pious: and the speeches of the messanger occupy most of the play. There is absolutely no mention of Menoeceus.

*Iocaste mater intelligens rem ad magnas tragoedias atrocesque exitus spectare filios in gratiam reducere studet: Polynicem intra moenia uocat. uenitur in colloquium. Polynices animo remissior et modestior, ferocior et impotentior Eteocles: mater utrique beneuolens rem aequis conditionibus componere cupit. Tandem Eteocles exclusa omni aequitate, fide, pactis omnes condiciones recipiendi fratris in regni consortium recusat. Polynices infecta re discedit: et cum neque iustitiam neque fidem nec legem naturae sibi praesidio esse uidet, ad uim et arma confugit. Miserabile autem est, illum fratris crudelitate prohiberi a patris et car[125]issimae sororis conspectu ac colloquio: ut euidentior fieret imago hominis prae regnandi libidine crudelis ferocis et impotentis. Acerbum quidem erat Polynici patrios penates natalemque terram populari: tamen iniuria indignissima non uidebatur mussitanda esse quo minus arma caperet, quum iustitiae et fidei commune praesidium uiolentia tyranni opprimi animaduerteret. Itaque ancipitem Martis aleam mauult experiri quam fratris libidini turpiter cedere. Generosus animus in Polynice et aequi iustique obseruans dignusque meliore fortuna: in hoc tamen impius, quod priuatam iniuriam publico patriae dispendio ulcisci uoluerit. Interea dum acies instruitur et quibus ad bellum opus est expediuntur, Tiresias de belli euentu consultus respondet uictoriam penes Thebanos futuram, si Menoeceus Creontis filius Marti immoletur: illius enim morte Thebanae urbis salutem stare, alioqui collapsuram. Qua in re magnam diuersitatem animorum patris et Menoecei cernere licet. Ille enim leuius patriae excidium putat quam filii mortem aspicere. Hic autem summae gloriae sibi futurum existimat, si sua unius morte patriae incolumitatem redimat. Ne uero patri refractarius uideretur ac odiosius obstreperet iussis illius, simulat se abiturum, ut imperabat Creon, cum pecunia in Thesprotorum regionem: nactusque opportunitatem gloriosi facinoris designandi se de turri in fossam praecipitem dedit uitamque patriae donauit. Quo exemplo generosi adolescentis monemur nullum periculum pro patria, cui uitam genus ac omnia debemus, fugiendum esse.

*[In the original the whole preface is run together in one long paragraph; it has been divided into four here for easier reading.]

Their mother Jocasta, understanding that the matter was headed toward great tragedies and horrible deaths, endeavors to reconcile her sons: she summons Polynices within the walls. They come to the discussion. Polynices is more relaxed in mind and more moderate, and Eteocles is more fierce and out of control: their mother, kind towards both, wishes to settle the matter with fair terms. In the end, with all fairness, faith, and agreements shut out, Eteocles refuses all the conditions of accepting his brother back into the sharing of the kingdom. Polynices departs with nothing accomplished: and since he sees that neither justice nor trust nor the law of nature serves to protect him, he has recourse to force and arms. Yet it was lamentable that he was prevented by the harshness of his brother from seeing and talking with his father and [125] most beloved sister: this occurs so that the portrayal of a man rendered cruel, fierce, and insolent by lust for rule should clearer. Indeed it was bitter for Polynices to lay waste to his ancestral gods and the land of his birth: however a most unworthy injustice did not seem to deserve to be met with silent inaction, so that he not take up arms, when he observed the common defense of justice and trust being overwhelmed by the violence of a tyrant. And so, he preferred to make trial of the dangerous dice-game of Mars rather than to give in to the desire of his brother in a shameful manner. The soul in Polynices was noble, observing the fair and just, and deserved to be marked by better fortune: yet in this point he is impious, in that he wished to avenge his personal injustice at the public expense of his fatherland. Meanwhile, while battle lines are being drawn up and the things necessary for war are being readied, Tiresias, consulted regarding the outcome of the war, responds that there would be victory for the Thebans, should Menoeceus the son of Creon be immolated to Mars: for the safety of the Theban city stands firm with his death, and would fall into ruin otherwise. In this matter, we are able to see the great difference of spirit between Menoeceus and his father. For Creon considers it a lesser grief to witness the destruction of his country than the death of his son. However, Menoeceus considers it will be a source of the highest glory for himself, if he should pay for the safety of his fatherland with his own single death. But lest he seem stubborn to his father and to go against his commands in a more hateful manner, he pretends to intend to depart with money into the realm of the Thesprotians, as Creon commanded: and having found the opportunity of contriving a glorious deed, he threw himself headlong from a tower into a ditch and gave his life for the state. From this example of the noble youth we are reminded that no danger for one’s country, to whom we owe life, race, and everything, should be shunned.

Interea res armis agi coepta est. Fortiter oppugnant moenia Argiui, acriter Thebani hostem repellunt: fit pugna cruenta, legitque uirum uir*, et Mars ἀλλοπρόσαλλος indomitum furit. Capaneus autem, unus ex septem ducibus Argiuorum, egregium uindicatae insolentiae praebet documentum. nam cum superbissime iactaret se etiam diis inuitis moenia occupaturum ac se iam quasi uictorem in ancipiti conflictu efferret, repente ictu fulminis concidit. Tandem, cum diu Marte dubio utrimque pugnatum esset, in eam sententiam procerum suffragiis itum est, ut Polynices et Eteocles singulari certamine congrederentur (id quod primum petebant duo fratres) ut hac uia res minore sanguinis impensa decerneretur. Congrediuntur igitur acerbissimis animis. Quid enim acerbius fratrum ira de regni corona dimicantium esse posset? Adsunt diuersa frementis turbae studia. Mutuis uulneribus uterque concidunt. Quis uel legens ista non exhorresceret? Duo aetate, uiribis, genere, opibus florentissimi iuuenes, quos naturae uinculum arctissime colligarat, in corona infinitae multitudinis strictis gladiis concurrunt, de uita et sanguine dimicaturi. Robur, animi magnitudo, uigor, ira in utrisque par erat: utrique aut dandus aut hauriendus erat sanguis. Misera mater certior facta de insano filiorum furore cum Antigone per medias acies se ad filios proripit, prohibitura congressum, nisi sero uenisset. ut autem utrumque iam prostratum uidet et parum uitae superesse, se ipsam quoque educto ex alterius corpore ferro occidit et ambos complexa animam exhalauit. Omnino patheticum illud est, quod Eteocles ille ferox tandem iam cum morte conflictans elatum spiritum illum submittat ac lacrimantibus oculis (loqui enim amplius non poterat) amice sorori et matri annuat: Polynices item amare fleuerit, iam animam agens: fratrisque a se interfecti et sororis et funestatae matris uices deplorarit, obtestatus ne suum cadauer insepultum abiicerent, sed in patria terra humarent: ut saltem mortuus ea qua uiuo frui non licuerit frueretur. Ita fere fit ut post cladem acceptam animi duri et feroces mollescant.

*[The preceding phrase comes from Vergil, Aeneid 11.632.]

Meanwhile the business began to be carried out with arms. The Argives bravely assail the walls, and the Thebans vehemently drive back the enemy: there is a bloody fight, and each man singles out his opponent, and “fickle” Mars rages boundlessly. But Capaneus, one of the seven Argive leaders, exhibits an exceptional example of insolence punished. For when he very arrogantly boasted that, even with the gods unwilling, he would capture the walls, and was already exulting as if he were a victor in an uncertain contest, he suddenly falls stricken by a lightning-bolt. Finally, when it had been fought on both sides for a long time with an incertain outcome, the leaders approved the proposal, that Polynices and Eteocles would engage in single combat (the thing which the two brothers sought in the first place) so that in this way the matter would be decided with less blood being expended. Consequently, they met in combat with most bitter spirits. Indeed what could be bitterer than the anger of brothers contending for the crown of the realm? Present in addition were the differing partialities of the roaring crowd. They both die through mutual wounds. Who would not shudder simply reading of these things? Two youths most distinguished in their age, strength, birth, and wealth, whom the bond of nature had joined together most tightly, run against each other with drawn swords in the throng of the endless multitude, in order to fight at the risk of life and blood. Strength, greatness of spirit, vigor, and anger were equal in both: each one had to to give or extract blood. Their wretched mother, informed about the insane rage of her sons, rushes forth with Antigone through the middle of the battle lines to her sons in order to prevent the confrontation, unless she came too late. Yet, when she sees each of them already lying prostrate and sees that little of life remains, she killed herself as well with a sword drawn from the body of one of the two, and breathed out her life breath, embracing both of them. This point is utterly full of pathos—that fierce Eteocles, finally struggling with death, reduces his haughty spirit and shows a friendly demeanor to his sister and mother with weeping eyes (for he was not able to speak any longer); that Polynices likewise bitterly wept, now in the agonies of death; that he lamented the lot of his brother killed by him, of his sister, and of his tormented mother, having implored them not to cast aside his corpse unburied but to bury him in his fatherland: so at least when dead, he could enjoy what he could not in life. Thus it commonly happens that hard and fierce souls are softened after sustaining calamity.

Post haec utriusque gentis denuo recruduit pugna: sed Thebani praeualentes, Argiuos occisis septem ducibus in fugam compulerunt. Creon cognito secundiore belli euentu, etsi uictoria multo sanguine constitisset, tamen in spem imperii obtinendi arrectus, Oedipum ut auctorem tantae cladis et Aten patriae, sub quo florere non posset, in exilium una cum Antigone, quia Haemonis nuptias recusaret, mittit. Quid calamitosius Oedipo, qui coniuge et filiis orbus, caecus, decrepitus, regno submotus, Thebis pellitur, qua in ciuitate multos annos regnauerat? Haec est inconstantia rerum humanarum, talisque fortunae ludus. Insigne pietatis exemplum est in Antigone, quae regias nuptias, opes, regnum, speciosos titulos, despecto et opis egenti parenti posthabuit. Ut breuiter absoluam rem, haec tragoedia nobis belli calamitates et discordiae pestes spectandas proponit regnandique cupiditatem detestatur. Deinde horrendis istis exemplis docet uim eam esse Adrasteae Nemeseos et offensi numinis uindictam, ut scelera parentum in liberos et nepotes usque persequantur. Luerunt filii incestuosos Oedipi concubitus et eiusdem parricidium: luerunt et suam ipsorum impietatem, qua parentem in tenebras incluserant. Libet huc adscribere eiusdem farinae elegantissimos ex Maphaei supplemento in Vergilium uersus de perniciosa dominandi libidine et funestis regum cladibus et miseria:

Quantos humana negotia motus,
[126] Alternasque uices miscent: quo turbine fertur
Vita hominum? o fragilis damnosa superbia sceptri,
O furor, o nimium dominandi innata cupido,
Mortales quo caeca uehis? quo gloria tantis
Inflatos transfers animo quaesita periclis?
Quot tecum insidias, quot mortes, quanta malorum
Magnorum tormenta geris? quot tela? quot enses,
Ante oculos (si cernis) habes? heu dulce uenenum,
Et mundi laetalis honos: heu tristia regni
Munera, quae haud paruo constent: et grandia rerum
Pondera, quae numquam placidam permittere pacem,
Nec requiem conferre queant. heu sortis acerbae
Et miserae regale decus magnoque timori
Suppositos regum casus pacique negatos.

After these things the fight between the two nations broke out again: but the Thebans, getting the upper hand, with the seven leaders having been slain, drove the Argives into flight. Creon, having learned of the more favorable outcome of the war, even though victory had been established with much gore, nevertheless was stirred towards the hope of obtaining power, and sends Oedipus, as the author of such great slaughter and as the Ruin of the house, under whom it could not flourish, into exile, together with Antigone because she refused marriage to Haemon. What is more wretched than Oedipus, who, bereft of his spouse and sons, blind, decrepit, and displaced from his rule, is driven from Thebes, in which city he had ruled for many years? This is the inconsistency of human affairs, such is the game of fortune. There is an outstanding example of piety in Antigone, who valued a royal wedding, wealth, the kingdom, and splendid honors less than her despised and destitute father. To conclude the matter briefly, this tragedy sets forth for us to observe the calamities of war and the pestilences of discord, and denounces the desire of rule. Secondly, with those horrible examples, it teaches us that such is the force of Adrastean Nemesis and the punishment of an offended divinity, that they punish the wicked deeds of parents all the way to their children and grandchildren. The sons have paid for the incestuous couplings of Oedipus and his parricide: they also have paid for their own impiety, by which they had confined their father in darkness. Here I shall write out the most elegant verses of the same nature from Maphaeus’ supplement to Vergil regarding the destructive desire to rule and the fatal destruction of kings and misery:

How many passions and various fortunes
[126] Do human affairs engage in: by what whirlwind
Is the life of man borne? O fragile scepter’s destructive pride,
O fury, O innate desire to dominate too much,
Blind, where do you carry mortals? Where do you, glory
Sought by such great dangers direct men inflated with passion?
How many traps, how many deaths, how much torture
Of great evils do you bear with you? How many spears? How many swords,
Do you hold before the eyes (if you comprehend)? Alas sweet poison,
And lethal honor of the world: Alas sad duties of kingship,
Which come at no small price: And great burdens of possessions
The sort that can never all calm peace,
Nor contribute repose. Alas the royal ornament
Of bitter and miserable fate, and the fortunes
Of kings, subjected to great fear, denied peace.

[126] Argumentum Actus primi.

Prologus exponit occasionem totius fabulae: quae est incestus Oedipi et parricidium, item execrationes quibus Polynicem et Eteoclem Diris* deuouerat. Ex quibus ille sua regni paterni parte fraudatus exercitum Thebas perduxerat, ut quod iure obtinere non posset ui occuparet. 2 Habet castrametationem Argiui exercitus: quae res mire subseruit argumenti rationibus. Nam apparatus ille magnificus belli ducumque praestantia auget horrorem periculi animosque ad exitum rei uidendum arrigit et excitat. 3 Chorus duo agit. primum suae profectionis causam et unde et quomodo explicat: deinde praesentia pericula detestatur, praesagiendo futuram cladem.

*[Corrected from lower case diris, which makes no sense as an common adjective here.]

[126] Argument of the First Act.

The prologue explains the background of the entire story: this is the incest and parricide of Oedipus, and also the curses with which he had consigned Polynices and Eteocles to the Furies. Of these, the former, cheated out of his own share of his father’s kingdom, had led an army against Thebes—so that he might seize by force what he was not able to obtain it by law. 2. This section has a survey of the camp of the Argive army: this wonderfully serves the purposes of the plot. For these magnificent armaments of war and the excellence of the leaders increase the horror of danger, and rouse and excite the audience’s spirits to see the outcome of the affair. 3. The Chorus discusses two things: first, it reveals the cause of its departure, and from where and how it took place. Next, it expresses abhorrence for the current dangers, foreboding future destruction.

[128] Argumentum Actus Secundi.

Polynices a matre per indutias accersitus urbem domumque patris ingreditur, omnia habens suspecta rebusque omnibus diffidens: sicuti solent qui ad hostium conuentus se recipiunt aut rem plenam periculi audent. Cuius aduentus matri a Choro nuntiatus eam magna laetitia et insperata explet. 2. Iocaste post blanditias obiurgat filium* de coniugio peregrino ac Thebanae domus imminentem calamitatem deplorat: Polynices omnino pathetice exulantis miserias, percontante id matre, ob oculos ponit: ac quomodo Adrasti filiae connubiis sit potitus exponit: suamque expeditionem, quae inuisa habebatur, excusat. 3. Pars habet pulcherrimam fori formam. Polynices suam causam exponit petitque legitimam patrii regni partem. Eteocles ferox se nihil concessurum fratri de imperio affirmat: adhibitis ad id argumentis quibus Polynicem inuisum, qui contra patriam hostili grassaretur exercitu, [129] reddere conatur. Mater dum filiorum dissidium grauissima oratione componere studet nihil agit. itaque post acerba conuicia re infecta disceditur. 4. Chorus initia urbis et regni Thebani recitat. commendatque terram Thebanam a fertilitate et amoenitate pascuorum fontium et fluminum. Denique deos inuocat, ut perclitanti urbi subueniant. Notandum est hunc actum totum in genere deliberatiuo uersari.

*[Corrected from printed filiam, a typographic error.]

[128] Argument of the Second Act.

Summoned by his mother during an armistice, Polynices enters the city and the house of his father, holding everything suspect and distrusting every matter—just as those are accustomed to do who make their way to meetings with their enemies or dare an affair full of danger. His arrival, announced to his mother by the Chorus, fills her with great and unexpected happiness. 2. After expressions of endearment, Jocasta chastises her son about his foreign marriage and laments the imminent calamity of the Theban house: With his mother earnestly inquiring about it, Polyneces places before her eyes the miseries of being an exile in a wholly pathetic manner. And he reveals how he acquired the marriage to the daughter of Adrastus; he excuses his expedition, which was deemed hateful. 3. This part has the most beautiful form of judicial debate. Polynices explains his own cause and seeks his legitimate part of the ancestral kingdom. Eteocles fiercely maintains that he will concede no part of his power to his brother: he applies to this purpose arguments that portray Polynices as hateful because was proceeding against his country with a hostile army. Their mother, in striving to reconcile the dispute of her sons with a most serious speech, accomplishes nothing. And thus, after bitter insults and no result, everyone departs. 4. The Chorus recites the origins of the city and the Theban kingdom. And they commend the Theban land for the abundance and loveliness of its pasturelands and springs and rivers. Finally, they invoke the gods to assist the imperiled city. We must note that this whole act operates in the deliberative genus of discourse.

[132] Actus Tertii Argumentum.

Primum hic actus continet consultationem de urbis defensione et imminenti bello administrando: in qua disputatur a Creonte, sic moderandam esse uindictam Eteocli ne quid praecipitet, sed ubique occasionem sequatur et captet. Suadet enim defensionem, non offensionem: id quod iuris naturalis est. 2. Post consultationem Eteocles longioris morae impatiens ad bellum festinat: domum Creonti commendat et quid porro fieri uelit imperat. 3 Chorus depingit rerum Thebanarum calamitatem ac scaturientia ex incestu Oedipi mala: ut moneamur quam acris sit uindex Deus impietatis et prauarum libidinum. Figurate tamen ipsum Polynicem reprehendit qui patriam tam antiquam olimque clarissimam hostili exercitu immaniter populetur. 4 Tiresias consultus a Creonte quomodo imminenti malo occurri possit respondet saeuam cladem Thebanis instare atque adeo Labdacidarum scelera et impietatem toti ciuitati luendam esse, nisi suo obtemperetur consilio. quod cum prodere recusat, cogitur a Creonte explicare: uidelicet Menoeceum ad necem pro salute communi Martem deposcere in uindictam Draconis olim a Cadmo occisi. Creon alio ablegat filium, potius uisurus patriae excidium quam filii mortem. Menoeceus autem intelligens in se urbis salutem esse sitam clam patre ad necem alacri animo properat. 5 Chorus Sphingis foeditatem ac crudelitatem in Thebanos Oedipique in regnum successionem describit, qui isto monstro ciuitatem liberarat: miraturque ad finem Menoecei uirtutem, qui pro patria oppetere non dubitabat.

[132]Argument of the Third Act.

This act first comprises the consideration about the defense of the city and the management of the imminent war: in this Creon maintains that while Eteocles’ zeal to counterattack must be moderated lest he do something hastily, he should follow and lay hold of the right opportunity everywhere possible. For he urges defense, not an offensive: that is what conforms to natural law. 2. After the consultation, Eteocles, impatient of any longer delay, rushes into war: he entrusts the house to Creon and he orders what he wishes to happen in the future. 3. The Chorus depicts the calamity of Theban affairs and the evils gushing forth from the incest of Oedipus—so that we may be reminded how fierce an avenger God is of impiety and perverse passions. However, the Chorus obliquely reproves Polynices himself, who would monstrously lay waste to his fatherland, so ancient and for a long time now very renowned, with a hostile army. 4. Tiresias, consulted by Creon [regarding] how one might be able to be block the impending evil, replies that savage destruction draws nigh for the Thebans and, still more, that the wickedness and impiety of the descendants of Labdacus must be atoned for by the whole population, unless they comply with his plan. And when he refuses to reveal it, he is forced by Creon to explain: namely, that Mars requires Menoeceus to die to save the community, in recompense for the dragon once killed by Cadmus. Creon banishes his son to another land, intending rather to see the ruin of his fatherland than the death of his son. Yet Menoeceus, understanding that the welfare of the city resided in him, hastens to his death with an eager heart in secret from his father. 5. The Chorus describes the hideousness of the Sphinx and her cruelty against the Thebans, and the accession to the throne of Oedipus, who had liberated the city from that monster: at the end of the song they wonder at the virtue of Menoeceus, who did not hesitate to die for his country.

[134] Argumentum Actus Quarti.

Hic actus quartus habet Catastrophen et absoluitur gemina narratione. quarum prima Iocastae euentum belli declarat, in qua mire uariam pugnae, quae et cominus et eminus fit, fortunam licet uidere: nimirum ruentium sternentium casus ancipites et diuersa fata. Secunda exponit quomodo Polynices et Eteocles in singulare certamem consenserint ac data mutuo fide factisque de more sacris se iam pugnae accingant. Quare uehementer turbata Iocaste Antigonen euocat, et una cum illa per medias turbas se proripit, prohibitura tam atrocem rem. Chorus denique miserae matris uicem deplorat, ut quae cogatur geminorum filiorum caedem aspicere.

[134] Argument of the Fourth Act.

This fourth act contains the catastrophe and is brought to completion with a twin narrative. The first of these declares the result of the war to Jocasta, in which it is possible to see the miraculously various fortune of the fight, which was both hand-to-hand and at a distance—indeed, the double-edged misfortunes of those falling and overthrowing and their differing fates. The second narrative explains how Polynices and Eteocles agreed upon single combat and how, after pledges were mutually given and sacrifices were performed in accordance with custom, they even now arm themselves for the fight. Vehemently troubled by this development, Jocasta summons out Antigone, and she rushes with her through the middle of the crowds in order to prevent such an atrocious thing. The Chorus finally laments the misfortune of the miserable mother—since she is forced to witness the death of her twin sons.

[135] Argumentum Actus quinti.

Actus ille ultimus summam epitasin exhibet estque funestus miserrimis calamitatibus. nam in eo occisorum sepulturae, exilium Oedipi, fratrum caedes mutuae, adeoque uoluntarius interitus Iocastae matris proponuntur. 1. Habet narrationem monomachiae duorum fratrum. 2. Matris interuentum et exitium, fugamque et caedem Argiuorum. 3. Querelam tragicam Antigones super funeribus duorum fratrum et matris. 4. Imperatur exilium Oedipo a Creonte, et Polynicis cadauer iubetur insepultum abiici: Oedipus causam horum malorum in fatalem necessitatem transfert. Antigone animose aduersus Creontem uelitatur: et potius comes exilii patri quam Creontis nurus esse vult.

[135] Argument of the Fifth Act.

This final act depicts the final intensification and is mournful with the most miserable calamities. For in this act the burials of the dead, the exile of Oedipus, the mutual killing of the brothers, and even the voluntary death of their mother Jocasta are set forth. 1. It contains the account of the solo combat of the two brothers. 2. [It also contains] the intervention and death of their mother, and the flight and slaughter of the Argives. 3. [It also has] the tragic complaint of Antigone regarding the deaths of her brothers and mother. 4. Creon commands exile for Oedipus and orders that Polynices’ corpse be cast away unburied. Oedipus attributes the cause of these evils to destined necessity. Antigone boldly skirmishes in words against Creon: and she wishes rather to be a companion in exile with her father than a daughter-in-law of Creon.

Translation by Jeremy Simmons

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