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The Burial at Thebes: A Version of…
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The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone

by Seamus Heaney

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I've always been interested in Sophocles' works -- which is good, since I studied Oedipus for both GCSE and A Level Classics; I more or less had to like it -- and I was intrigued when I saw that Seamus Heaney had done a 'translation'. This is less of a translation and more of a version: I wouldn't use it for scholarly study of the play itself, though it would be interesting in studying modern rewritings and retellings of ancient myths. He keeps the play format, and some of it is really, really good poetry, though it threw me off that as usual with Heaney, there was a lot of colloquial language. I'm used to the play in a quite formal, conservative translation, which doesn't help.

It'd be a bit of a shock to an unsuspecting Classics student, I'm sure, but it's also a very lively and interesting read. I'm not sure what I think about this trend of 'updating' the classics to make them more readable for a modern audience, but Heaney does it well. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Seamus Heaney's [b:Antigone|130405|The Burial at Thebes A Version of Sophocles' Antigone|Sophocles|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1316635366s/130405.jpg|1052210] is excellent. In part he means to draw a connection between Creon and GW Bush - bear with me - or don't - and while that's vaguely interesting, it also consigns it to be debated in terms of modern politics, which is a shitty little rabbit hole. Sophocles is better than GW Bush.

It's common to call pride Odysseus's tragic flaw, but that's never struck me as true; it's curiosity that does that motherfucker in. But pride is certainly Creon's flaw. He pays, as surely as Antigone does, and it would be fair to call him the co-lead of Antigone. She owns the first half of the play; he owns the second.

But tragic flaws are for heroes, and Creon's no hero. Does he work from understandable feelings? Well, sure. Can you understand his anguish at the result? Totally. Are he and Antigone both punished for the same thing - headstrongness? Absolutely. (Do I like answering my own questions?) But it's crystal clear in this play that Antigone is the protagonist and Creon is the antagonist. She's headstrong, but she acts - and goes out - nobly. Creon's headstrong, but he also makes the wrong decision, and he loses his people and his family as a result. By the end of the play, there is no one - no character in the play, including Creon himself, and including the reader - who thinks he's done the right thing.

The difference between rulers and tyrants was of particular concern to the Greeks, and Antigone is an exploration of that difference - and a clear warning to those who might become tyrants. It is not an ambiguous play.

Translation Review: Weird. Heaney gets wicked colloquial at times; he also puts the poetic power he has into it at times. I feel like he was trying to make Antigone accessible. Compare this with his Beowulf, in which he put little or no effort into accessibility; while that's our best translation of Beowulf, it's not because he made it easy. I'm not sure this is our best translation of Antigone, although it is fun to read. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
The Burial at Thebes is Seamus Heaney’s version of Sophocles’ play Antigone.Heaney’s translation is easy to read. He phrases the lines with a touch of poetry, so that they flow like especially articulate sentences. His version of Antigone did not feel stilted in the least. If you’d like to read or revisit Antigone, I’d highly recommend checking out The Burial at Thebes.

My full thoughts are posted on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Jan 22, 2011 |
In 2003, Heaney was asked by the famous Abbey Theater to do a version of Antigone and this is the result. Heaney keeps the poetic form and the sharp, sparse feel of the play. What is most striking about this version is the timeliness of it: the actions of Creon and his refusal to hear reason seems to echo the current administration in the US, a similarity Heaney admits inspired him. I'm not much of a classicist so I can't compare how true this version is to Sophocles but I enjoyed this version more than I remember enjoying the original in high school. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Mar 31, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374530076, Paperback)

Sophocles' play, first staged in the fifth century B.C., stands as a timely exploration of the conflict between those who affirm the individual's human rights and those who must protect the state's security. During the War of the Seven Against Thebes, Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, learns that her brothers have killed each other, having been forced onto opposing sides of the battle. When Creon, king of Thebes, grants burial of one but not the "treacherous" other, Antigone defies his order, believing it her duty to bury all of her close kin. Enraged, Creon condemns her to death, and his soldiers wall her up in a tomb. While Creon eventually agrees to Antigone's release, it is too late: She takes her own life, initiating a tragic repetition of events in her family's history.

In this outstanding new translation, commissioned by Ireland's renowned Abbey Theatre to commemorate its centenary, Seamus Heaney exposes the darkness and the humanity in Sophocles' masterpiece, and inks it with his own modern and masterly touch.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:58 -0400)

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Sophocles' play stands as a timely exploration of the conflict between those who affirm the individual's human rights and those who must protect the state's security. During the War of the Seven Against Thebes, Antigone learns that her brothers have killed each other, having been forced onto opposing sides. When Creon, king of Thebes, grants burial of one but not the "treacherous" other, Antigone defies his order, believing it her duty to bury all of her close kin. Enraged, Creon condemns her to death, and his soldiers wall her up in a tomb. In this new translation, Seamus Heaney exposes the darkness and the humanity in Sophocles' masterpiece, and inks it with his own modern and masterly touch.… (more)

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