One of Greece's three celebrated tragedians, Sophocles stands between Aeschylus and Euripides as the most highly awarded of the three. He is supposed to have been born around 497 or 496 BC in Colonus Hippias, in the region of Attica in Greece. His family was wealthy, and Sophocles enjoyed a rather privileged life and education. Not much is known about Sophocles in detail, but he seems to have served in Pericles' government as one of the treasurers of the city of Athens. At a young age Sophocles already showed plenty of artistic talent, and was soon important in society and, more notably, in the theater.
Sophocles' plays are innovative and spirited, and won no less than second at 24 of the city competitions in which he competed. He is said to have written 123 plays, but only seven of them remain fully intact (apart from the fragments of many others): Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes, and Ajax. They are still considered particularly brilliant, even as he was highly regarded by his contemporaries as a master. Part of the reason for this is his delving into his characters and the human problems that they face, such as the stories of Oedipus the King (which Aristotle deemed as the height of tragic achievement) and Antigone. Such a character development was hardly seen prior to Sophocles. His innovations include new ways of creating emotion in the audiance, and later an emphasis on diction as well as true 'acting', in which characters speak and emote naturally rather than traditionally or stylistically.
Sophocles died in 406 or 405 BC of unknown circumstances. His death is surrounded by various suppositions as to how he died, from dying of happiness at winning a competition, to suffocating after attempting to recite a passage from Antigone straight through without drawing breath, to unglamorously choking on grapes. However one may speculate, he remains one of the fathers of tragedy and playwrights to this day.
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