Translating and Adapting Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes in the United States
Keywords:Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, La Mama, New York Theatre Workshop
After centuries of neglect, Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes has gained increasing prominence worldwide and in the United States in particular, where a hip-hop production caught the public imagination in the new millennium. This study analyses three translations of Aeschylus’ tragedy (by Helen H. Bacon and Anthony Hecht, 1973; Stephen Sandy, 1999; and Carl R. Mueller, 2002) and two adaptations (by Will Power, 2001-2008; and Ellen Stewart, 2001-2004). Beginning in the late 1960s, the Seven Against Thebes has received multiple new readings: at stake are Eteocles’ and Polynices’ relationships with the (past and present) Labdacid dynasty; the brothers’ claims to the Theban polis and to their inheritance; and the metatheatrical implications of their relationship to Oedipus’ legacy. This previously forgotten play provides a timely response to the power dynamics at work in the contemporary US, where the fight for ethnic, cultural, economic, and linguistic recognition is a daily reality and always involves dialogue with the individual’s own past and tradition.