July 30, 2012



Second of the 3 greatest ancient Greek writers of tragedy.
  • Full Name: Sophocles
  • Birth: 496 B.C. ?
  • Death: 406 B.C. ?
  • Cause of death: ?
  • Place of Death: Athens
  • Place of Birth: Colonus Hippius (now part of Athens)
  • Buried at: Family tomb near Deceleia
  • Father: Sophillus
  • Mother: ?
  • Siblings: ?
  • Marriage: ?
  • Spouse: Nicostrata (First Wife), Theoris (Second Wife)
  • Number of Children: 2 legitimate sons: Iophon (by first marriage), Ariston (by second marriage) and 3 illegitimate sons
  • Education: ?
  • Known for: bringing change in the spirit and significance of tragic plays by cleverly portraying the nature of man, his problems, and his struggles as the foremost interest while keeping the traditional religion and morality as the central source of theme
  • Criticised for: not dealing with religious problems as Aeschylus had nor with intellectual ones as Euripides had done
  • Influences: Euripides, Aeschylus
  • Influenced: Heiner Müller, William E. Connolly, Grigol Robakidze, Dominik Smole, Malcolm Lowry


“There are many wonderful things, but none is more wonderful than man.” Sophocles, Antigone

Major Themes:

  • Fate
  • The limits of free will
  • Divine laws
  • Pre-ordinance
  • Justice
  • Revenge
  • Pride
  • The threat of Hasty judgment
  • The threat of tyranny
  • False optimism
  • Ignorance
  • Madness
  • Human strife and struggle
  • Human sufferings

Notable Works:

Extant Plays
  • Oedipus Tyrannus (430 to 415 B.C.)
  • Oedipus at Colonus (produced posthumously in 401 B.C.)
  • Antigone (after 441 B.C.)
  • Electra (430 to 415 B.C.)
  • Trachiniae (after 441 B.C.)
  • Ajax (c. 451-444 B.C.)
  • Philoctetes (409 B.C.)
Fragmentary Plays
  • Aias Lokros (Ajax the Locrian)
  • Aias Mastigophoros (Ajax the Whip-Bearer)
  • Aigeus (Aegeus)
  • Aigisthos (Aegisthus)
  • Aikhmalôtides (The Captive Women)
  • Aithiopes (The Ethiopians), or Memnon
  • Akhaiôn Syllogos (The Gathering of the Achaeans)
  • Akhilleôs Erastai (Lovers of Achilles)
  • Akrisios
  • Aleadae (The Sons of Aleus)
  • Aletes
  • Alexandros (Alexander)
  • Alcmeôn
  • Amphiaraus
  • Amphitryôn
  • Amycos
  • Andromache
  • Andromeda
  • Antenoridai (Sons of Antenor)
  • Athamas (two versions produced)
  • Atreus, or Mykenaiai
  • Camicoi
  • Cassandra
  • Cedaliôn
  • Cerebros
  • Chryseis
  • Clytemnestra
  • Colchides
  • Côphoi (Mute Ones)
  • Creusa
  • Crisis (Judgement)
  • Daedalus
  • Danae
  • Dionysiacus
  • Dolopes
  • Epigoni
  • Eriphyle
  • Eris
  • Eumelus
  • Euryalus
  • Eurypylus
  • Eurysaces
  • Helenes Apaitesis (Helen's Demand)
  • Helenes Gamos (Helen's Marriage)
  • Herakles Epi Tainaro (Hercules At Taenarum)
  • Hermione
  • Hipponous
  • Hybris
  • Hydrophoroi (Water-Bearers)
  • Inachos
  • Iobates
  • Iokles
  • Iôn
  • Iphigenia
  • Ixiôn Lacaenae (Lacaenian Women)
  • Laocoôn
  • Larisaioi
  • Lemniai (Lemnian Women)
  • Manteis or Polyidus (The Prophets or Polyidus)
  • Meleagros
  • Minôs
  • Momus
  • Mousai (Muses)
  • Mysoi (Mysians)
  • Nauplios Katapleon (Nauplius' Arrival)
  • Nauplios Pyrkaeus (Nauplius' Fires)
  • Nausicaa, or Plyntriai
  • Niobe
  • Odysseus Acanthoplex (Odysseus Scourged with Thorns)
  • Odysseus Mainomenos (Odysseus Gone Mad)
  • Oeneus
  • Oenomaus
  • Palamedes
  • Pandora, or Sphyrokopoi (Hammer-Strikers)
  • Pelias
  • Peleus
  • Phaiakes
  • Phaedra
  • Philoctetes In Troy
  • Phineus (two versions)
  • Phoenix
  • Phrixus
  • Phryges (Phrygians)
  • Phthiôtides
  • Poimenes (The Shepherds)
  • Polyxene
  • Priam
  • Procris
  • Rhizotomoi (The Root-Cutters)
  • Salmoneus
  • Sinon
  • Sisyphus
  • Skyrioi (Scyrians)
  • Skythai (Scythians)
  • Syndeipnoi (The Diners, or, The Banqueters)
  • Tantalus
  • Telephus
  • Tereus
  • Teukros (Teucer)
  • Thamyras
  • Theseus
  • Thyestes
  • Troilus
  • Triptolemos
  • Tympanistai (Drummers)
  • Tyndareos
  • Tyro Keiromene (Tyro Shorn)
  • Tyro Anagnorizomene (Tyro Rediscovered).
  • Xoanephoroi (Image-Bearers)

Did you Know?

Despite being a commoner, his father Sophillus was a rich man; his wealth was derived from the ownership of slaves employed in various manufactures, especially armour

Sophocles was well educated in all of the arts prevailed in old Greek system, including poetry, dance, gymnastics, philosophy, music, mathematics, astronomy, law, athletics and military tactics

He was well versed in Homer and the Greek lyric poets

Sophocles was an active, engaging man throughout his whole life; he was known as the “Attic Bee” for his diligence

Besides Aeschylus and Euripides, Sophocles is that great Greek tragedian whose work has survived into modern times

Sophocles was the younger contemporary of Aeschylus and the older contemporary of Euripides

In 468 B.C. at the age of twenty-eight Sophocles defeated Aeschylus at the Dionysian dramatic festival; with this victory, Aeschylus left for Sicily and Sophocles’ dramatic career started and continued to secure a number of consecutive victories

During his career he never won less than second prize

In 441 B.C. Euripides defeated Sophocles at the Dionysian dramatic festival

 He was the most-awarded writer in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens; his total victories are greater than the combined wins of Aeschylus and Euripides

Now a days his reputation firmly rests upon Oedipus Tyrannus, the tragic story of the mythical figure Oedipus, whose name was adopted by Freud to explain his concept of Oedipus Complex

At the age of 16, due to his youth, good looks, and performing ability, he was picked to a paean (choral chant) about the victory of the Battle of Salamis

In total, Sophocles wrote 123 plays, of which only 7 complete tragedies survive these days; besides, fragments exist for 80 to 90 other pieces

Oedipus at Colonus, the second of his best pieces was produced posthumously

Sophocles was the only playwright of his time who did not perform in all of his plays, owing to his weak voice

Sophocles married twice. His first marriage was with a woman named Nicostrata, by whom he became the father of Iophon. Somewhat late in life he formed a connection with a certain Theoris, a woman of Sicyon, by whom he had a son called Ariston

It is assumed that Sophocles had three other illegitimate sons, though nothing is known about them

His two sons: Iophon and Ariston were also writers of tragedy

Towards the end of his life, Iophon sued against Sophocles to prove him mentally incompetent in order to get the administration of his property. To prove his sanity, Sophocles recited a portion of the then unpublished Oedipus Coloneus. He was off the charges since the jury could ascertain that no incompetent person could write such beautiful words

Sophocles had a strong appetite for carnal pleasure and it remained the same until he was very old

Akin to many Greek men of that time, Sophocles had a liking for handsome youths

Towards the end of his life, Sophocles fell in love with the courtesan named Archippe, whom he made heiress of his property but ultimately she lost it to Sophocles' relatives

When Archippe’s former lover learnt about her relationship with the old Sophocles, he wittily described it through the following lines:

“like a night-owl among the tombstones,
 like a horned owl over corpses,
 so my girl now sits with Sophocles.”

A series of myths exist about the manner of his death. According to some, he was choked by eating grapes sent him by the actor Callippides at the time of the Anthesteria. Some others said that he died while reading Antigone aloud by trying to deliver a long sentence without taking a breath. Again, few others ascribed his death to excessive joy at the success of his Antigone in competition

After his demise, he was buried in the family tomb on the way to Deceleia, about a mile from Athens, and over his tomb the figure of a siren was erected

He was not politically active or militarily inclined, but the Athenians elected him twice to high military office

Besides being a tragedian, Sophocles was also an actor, a military commander, a field general, a priest, a politician, and a treasurer

He was very religious-minded and he transformed his home in worship place for the healing god Asclepius, while a temple was being built


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July 12, 2012

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer

14th century English poet, philosopher, courtier, civil servant and diplomat.
  • Full Name: Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Also Known as: Father of English Literature
  • Birth: 1343?
  • Death: 1400?
  • Cause of death: ?
  • Place of Death: ?
  • Place of Birth: London, England?
  • Buried at: Westminster Abbey, London
  • Father: John Chaucer
  • Mother: Agnes Copton
  • Siblings: 1 Sister (Katherine Chaucer)?
  • Marriage: 1366?
  • Spouse: Philippa Roet
  • Number of Children: 2 Sons ? (Thomas Chaucer and Lewis Chaucer) & 2 Daughters ? (Elizabeth Chaucer and Agnes Chaucer)
  • Education: ?
  • Known for: elevating the prestige of English as a literary language as well as increasing the range of its poetic vocabulary and metres
  • Criticised for: his lack of seriousness (According to Matthew Arnold)
  • Influences: Guillaume de Lorris (c. 1200 – c. 1240), Jean de Meun (c. 1240 – c. 1305), Dante Alighieri (c. June 1, 1265 – September 14, 1321), Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300 – April 1377), Giovanni Boccaccio (June 16, 1313 – December 21, 1375), and Jean Froissart (c. 1337 – c. 1405)
  • Influenced: Thomas Hoccleve (c. 1368–1426), John Lydgate (c. 1370 – c. 1451), Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1405 – 14 March 1471), John Skelton (c. 1460 – 21 June 1529), Robert Henryson (c. 1425 - c. 1500), Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 13 January 1599), William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616), and John Dryden (9 August 1631 – 1 May 1700)


“What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing. “Tale of Melibeus” (The Canterbury Tales)

Major Themes:

  • Courtly love
  • Romance
  • Sin
  • Social class
  • Corruption of the Church
  • Christianity
  • Patience
  • Decadence
  • Feminism
  • Sex and adultery
  • Male-female marriage
  • Justice and judgement
  • The human pursuit of transitory earthly ideals
  • The dilemma of fate verses free will

Notable Works:

  • The Book of the Duchess (about 1370?)
  • Troilus and Cressida (about 1385?)
  • The Canterbury Tales (about 1386?)
  • The Parliament of Fowls (about 1382?)
  • The Knight's Tale (from the Canterbury Tales) (about 1386?)
  • The House of Fame
  • The Legend of Good Women ( about 1386?)
  • Treatise on the astrolabe
  • Truth (about 1390?)
  • Gentilesse
  • Merciles Beaute
  • Lak of Stedfastnesse
  • Against Women Unconstant

Did You Know?

  • The historians are divided into their opinions about the exact date of Chaucer’s birth.
  • Generally it is assumed that he was born between 1343 and 1446.
  • The historians are in complete darkness about Chaucer’s death. According to one tradition, he died of natural causes, possibly tumor. Still another tradition relates that he was murdered by enemies of Richard II or his successor, Henry IV.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer grew up on Thames Street in London, England.
  • Little is known about his educational background. He probably attended a school attached to a local church named Saint Paul's Cathedral to have some education in Latin and Greek and may have studied law at the Inns of Court.
  • His father and grandfather were both London wine makers; several previous generations had been merchants in Ipswich.
  • Most possibly in 1366 he married a fellow courtier named Phillipa Pan.
  • It is assumed that Chaucer was fluent in several languages, including French, Italian, and Latin.
  • Since Chaucer was the first poet to write authoritatively in English, John Dryden called Chaucer "the father of English poetry," and honoured him as highly as the Greeks honoured Homer and the Romans honoured Virgil.
  • Although he spent most of his life in and around the court, he had to work a succession of jobs— as a page, a soldier, an esquire, a diplomat, a customs controller, justice of the peace, member of Parliament, Clerk of the Works of Westminster, Commissioner of Walls and Ditches, and Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest to support himself.
  • According to legal records, in 1380 Chaucer was accused of the raptus (which could mean either rape or kidnapping) of a woman named Cecilia Chaumpaigne. However, in court she dropped all of the charges and released him of all of his actions in the case of her rape.
  • After his death, he was buried in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, which was definitely a rare honour for a commoner like him. Since then that very part became known as the Poet's Corner.
  • Chaucer's first published work was The Book of the Duchess, a poem of over 1,300 lines.
  • Although he wrote a number of stories and poems over the course of his lifetime, today his reputation chiefly rests upon The Canterbury Tales.
  • He never finished his masterpiece The Canterbury Tales and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
  • In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's characters are psychologically so complex that the work has also been called by the scholars the first modern novel.
  • Chaucer was the first English writer to write in the language of the people, the vernacular English, rather than Latin or French, the languages used for most literary writings in the 1300s.
  • Chaucer contributed a lot to increase the prestige of English as a literary language and extended the range of its poetic vocabulary and meters.
  • He was the first English poet to use the seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter known as rhyme royal and the couplet later called heroic.
  • For the English Renaissance, Chaucer was the English Homer. Edmund Spenser paid tribute to him as his master and many of the plays of William Shakespeare show thorough assimilation of Chaucer's comic spirit.
  • His family name derives from the French term chausseur, meaning "shoemaker".
  • There’s a crater on the far side of the moon named Chaucer which has been named in honour of Chaucer.


“Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer.” GradeSaver. 1999-2012. GradeSaver LLC. 8 July 2012
< http://www.gradesaver.com/author/geoffrey-chaucer/>.

David, Alfred. “Geoffrey Chaucer.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

 “Fast Facts about Geoffrey Chaucer.” Geoffrey Chaucer Information. 2003. Brendan Benson. 8
July 2012 < http://www.angelfire.com/mi3/chaucer/resume.html>.

“Geoffrey Chaucer Biography.” Bio.com. 1996–2012. A+E Television Networks, LLC. 8 July 2012
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“Geoffrey Chaucer.” eNotes.com. 2012. eNotes.com, Inc. 8 July 2012
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2004-2012. Oxford University Press. 8 July 2012
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“The Canterbury Tales and Other Works by Geoffrey Chaucer.” Librarius. 2012. Librarius.
8 July 2012< http://www.librarius.com/>.

July 6, 2012

Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

Leading English poet, literary & social critic, and essayist of the Victorian age.
  • Full Name: Matthew Arnold
  • Birth: December 24, 1822
  • Death: April 15, 1888
  • Cause of death: Heart Failure
  • Place of Death: Liverpool
  • Place of Birth: Laleham, Middlesex
  • Buried at: All Saints' Churchyard, Laleham, Middlesex
  • Father: Thomas Arnold
  • Mother: Mary Penrose Arnold
  • Siblings: 6 (three sisters and three brothers)?
  • Marriage: 1851
  • Spouse: Frances Lucy Wightman
  • Number of Children: 6
  • Education: Rugby School; graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1844
  • Known for: his classical criticism on the socio-cultural matters of England, especially the manners of the class structure which was comprised of three major classes: the “Barbarians” (the aristocracy), the “Philistines” (the middle class), and the “Populace” (the lower class)
  • Criticised for: not incorporating sufficient original ideas of his own in the critical studies
  • Influences: William Wordsworth, John Keats. Goethe, Sainte-Beuve, and Cardinal Newman
  • Influenced: T. S. Eliot, Lionel Trilling, Harold Bloom, Robert Pinsky W. B. Yeats, James Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Sharon Olds


“Our society distributes itself into Barbarians, Philistines, and Populace; and America is just ourselves, with the Barbarians quite left out, and the Populace nearly.” Culture and Anarchy (1969)

Major Themes:

  • Nature
  • Melancholy in life
  • Loss of religious faith
  • Loss of love
  • Sharp Discrimination between Intellectual and Moral Truth
  • Arnold's own essential homelessness in the Victorian world
  • Past present and future of Britain
  • Separation and hopelessness
  • Confusion in life

Notable Works:

  • The Strayed Reveller, 1849
  • Empedocles on Etna, 1852
  • Poems, 1853
  • Poems, Second Series, 1855
  • "The Modern Element in Literature," inaugural lecture at Oxford, November 1857
  • Merope, a Tragedy, 1858
  • On Translating Homer, 1861
  • The Study of Celtic Literature (lectures), 1867
  • Essays in Criticism (1st series), 1865
  • New Poems, 1867
  • Culture and Anarchy, 1869
  • St. Paul and Protestantism, 1870
  • Friendship's Garland, 1871
  • Literature and Dogma, 1873
  • God and the Bible, 1875
  • Last Essays on Church and Religion, 1877
  • Essays in Criticism (2nd series), 1888

Did you Know?

  • Matthew Arnold was born in 1822, the same year that Percy Shelley was drowned
  • He died in 1888, the same year that T. S. Eliot was born
  • Although Matthew Arnold began his literary career as a poet, nowadays he is chiefly remembered for his critical essays
  • Arnold invested only a quarter of his productive life to writing poetry
  • Even though Arnold is considered one of the major poets of the Victorian Era, behind Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, he was not recognized in his own time
  • Matthew Arnold was 26 years old when his first book of poetry appeared
  • He published his first book of poetry The Strayed Reveller (1849) anonymously. Then he published his second book Empedocles on Etna (1852). But he was so dissatisfied with these books that ultimately withdrew them from circulation
  • As a lecturer Arnold was disappointing, both because of his awkward manner and the feebleness of his voice, which was inaudible to the greater part of his audience.
  • During travels in 1848, he met and fell in love with a French woman, but they did not marry.
  • Arnold went to 2 different Colleges: Winchester College and Balliol College.
  • After graduating from Balliol College at Oxford in 1844, Arnold accepted a teaching post at the university.
  • In 1857 Arnold was elected to the professorship of poetry at Oxford, and he held this post for the next decade. He was the first professor of poetry to give his lectures in English rather than in Latin
  • He was the Head chairman of Poetry at Oxford University.
  • He was a Private Secretary to Lord Lansdowne.
  • In 1851 he was appointed inspector of schools, a position he held until shortly before his death within two years
  • He died on a sudden heart attack in 1888 in Liverpool while walking with his wife to catch a tram to meet his beloved daughter, who was arriving on a boat from the USA
  • Several of Arnold's early poems express his hopeless love for a girl he calls Marguerite. Scholars have been unable to identify an original for this girl, and whether she existed at all is a question
  • Some of Arnold's most attractive poems are addressed to his children
  • Arnold himself could apprehend that his talent was not as great as the other major poets of his time, and therefore, he completely abandoned poetry during the airy heights of his career and tend to write literary criticism instead
  • He is often considered to be the founding father of academic criticism in English, and the principles for literary criticism
  • His longest poem is "Empedocles on Etna,"
  • Matthew Arnold had six children by his wife, three of whom died in childhood.
  • When Wordsworth died in 1850 Arnold published his "Memorial Verses" in Fraser's Magazine to pay a homage to the deceased poet


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