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The Theban plays by Sophocles

The Theban plays (edition 1974)

by Sophocles

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Title:The Theban plays
Info:London: Penguin, c1974. 168 p. ; 20 cm.
Collections:Your library
Tags:greek tragedy, translations

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The Three Theban Plays: Antigone ; Oedipus at Colonus ; Oedipus the King by Sophocles


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There's something rotten in the city-state of Thebes.

I read this "trilogy" of plays over several years from the end of high school to the end of university. I studied "Antigone" in Grade 12, then "Oedipus the King" as part of a classics English course and "Oedipus at Colonus" as part of a Philosophy and Literature course. I have always employed the story of "Oedipus the King" and some of Aristotle's commentary on it as part of my teaching about Shakespearean tragedy.

So, I was delighted to learn that Fullhouse Productions is presenting this favourite of mine next May in Hamilton, New Zealand
(https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Fullhouse-Productions/229418790406995. It's given me a great excuse to re-read this brilliant play, a prototype for so many features of Shakespeare's tragedies.

Although the audience already knows the back-story, it reads like a tremendous mystery as Oedipus relentlessly seeks to solve the problem presented by Cadmus and the oracle. Even on the page, the drama plays tersely yet with great suspense and I really felt for Oedipus and his family as they discover the truth of his origins and Laius' death.

I loved seeing figures and situations that are so familiar from Shakespeare's dramas: the initial corrupt nature of Thebes like that of Hamlet's Denmark; blind Oedipus appearing on stage like blind Gloucester; Oedipus and Jocasta unknowingly living a life like Claudius and Gertrude; Oedipus rejecting Cadmus like Lear rejecting Kent.

Of course, Sophocles' masterpiece is more than a prototype - it is a complete play in itself and I look forward to seeing it performed next year.

Antony Millen is the author of "Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River To Hiruharama"
[b:Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River To Hiruharama|18067949|Redeeming Brother Murrihy The River To Hiruharama|Antony Millen|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370951913s/18067949.jpg|25269951] ( )
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  Antony_Millen | Jul 7, 2014 |
When it comes to tragic irony, few ancient or modern playwrights come close to Sophocles and these are the three works that showcase his dark genius at its best. This particular edition is translated by the ever-dependable Robert Fagles, and contains the following plays, in the order they were first produced:

1 - ANTIGONE: Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus and heir to her family's persistent dark cloud of misfortune. She wants to bury her equally-unlucky brother but her loyalty to her doomed brethren may cost her. (Of course it will! It's Sophocles!)

2 - OEDIPUS THE KING: Oedipus is the best king for miles around and everyone knows it, including him.* Unfortunately an ominous stain is creeping into his idyllic kingdom; a plague is raging and it seems the gods are upset about something or other. The only person who seems to know what's up is a blind prophet and he's got some bad news for poor Oeddy.

3 - OEDIPUS AT COLONUS: The action in this place takes place between the events of Oedipus the King and Antigone. This the most philosophical of the trilogy, dealing with ideas of fate, guilt, and redemption. (I thought it was a bit boring.)

* Uh oh! Hubris! ( )
  saturnloft | Sep 28, 2013 |
Sophocles' is one of only three Ancient Greek tragedians with surviving plays. The plays by the earliest, Aeschylus, remind me of a ancient frieze--not stilted exactly, but still stylized, very formal. The plays by the last of the three, Euripides, to me seems the most natural, the most modern. Sophocles is more in the middle in more ways than chronologically. He is credited with adding a third actor onstage to allow for more conflict and less emphasis on the chorus. His Theban Plays are about Oedipus and his daughter Antigone, of the royal family of the ancient Greek city of Thebes, and the plays are often grouped together, but actually were each part of tetralogies that have been lost and written years apart. Only seven of over a hundred plays by Sophocles still remain in existence. Oedipus the King and Antigone are his most famous and influential, and I was introduced to both plays in high school, and amazingly, that didn't put me off for life.

Oedipus the King is a mystery story--with Oedipus the detective unraveling a secret that becomes his own doom. You may have heard of the "Oedipus Complex" associated with theories by Freud. Yes, that's this Oedipus, and that speaks to how primal, how deep goes some of the themes in this play. In the book 100 Top Plays, Oedipus the King comes in second only to Shakespeare's King Lear as most important play. Antigone comes in at number fifteen, after Aeschylus' Oresteia and two plays by Euripides. Antigone is the rare play with a female title protagonist--and its basic theme of the individual against the state resonated with me strongly, even as a teenager first reading it. Oedipus at Colonus, I found less memorable and impressive. In terms of the timeline, its events fall between those of Oedipus the King and Antigone, though this was actually one of Sophocles' last plays. That said, it falls nicely in between the two, filling some gaps, and it does have its beauties. But comparing this to the other two is like comparing Shakespeare's King Lear and Hamlet to, oh, his Cymbeline. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | May 20, 2013 |
Probably my favourite plays I ever had to read for Classical Studies. Oedipus, particularly. They certainly are tragedies, but they're wonderfully structured ones that, to me at least, certainly pack a punch. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
“Olha, espectador, remonta a fundo, de sorte que a mola se desenrola com lentidão ao longo de uma vida humana, uma das mais perfeitas máquinas construídas pelos deuses infernais para o aniquilamento matemático de um homem” Jean Cocteau, em sua peça A Máquina Infernal, descrevendo o instante em que Édipo vence a esfinge, descreve perfeitamente o espírito de toda a Trilogia Tebana. ( )
  JuliaBoechat | Mar 30, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (124 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sophoclesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banks, Theodore HowardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, BernardNotessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyckoff, ElizabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140444254, Paperback)

Aristotle called "Oedipus The King," the second-written of the three Theban plays written by Sophocles, the masterpiece of the whole of Greek theater. Today, nearly 2,500 years after Sophocles wrote, scholars and audiences still consider it one of the most powerful dramatic works ever made. Freud sure did. The three plays--"Antigone," "Oedipus the King," and "Oedipus at Colonus"--are not strictly a trilogy, but all are based on the Theban myths that were old even in Sophocles' time. This particular edition was rendered by Robert Fagles, perhaps the best translator of the Greek classics into English.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:26 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Towering over the rest of Greek tragedy, these three plays are among the most enduring and timeless dramas ever written. Robert Fagles' translation conveys all of Sophocles' lucidity and power.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140444254, 0140440038

Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300117760, 0300119011

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