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The Theban Plays (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) [Hardcover]

Sophocles , Charles Segal , David Grene
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct 1994 Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics

The legends surrounding Oedipus of Thebes and his ill-fated offspring provide the subject matter for Sophocles’ three greatest plays, which together represent Greek drama at the pinnacle of its achievement.


Oedipus the King, the most famous of the three, has been characterized by critics from Aristotle to Coleridge as the perfect exemplar of the art of tragedy, in its unforgettable portrayal of a man’s failed attempt to escape his fate. In Oedipus at Colonus, the blind king finds his final release from the sufferings the gods have brought upon him, and Antigone completes the downfall of the House of Cadmus through the actions of Oedipus’s magnificent and uncompromising daughter defending her ideals to the death. All three of The Theban Plays, while separate, self-contained dramas, draw from the same rich well of myth and showcase Sophocles’ enduring power. Translated by David Grene.

 (Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Product details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library (Oct 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679431322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679431329
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.3 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,182,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Sophocles was born in 496 BC. His long life spanned the rise and decline of the Athenian Empire. He wrote over a hundred plays, many of which are published as Penguin Classics, drawing on a wide and varied range of themes.

E.F. Watling translated a range of Greek and Roman plays for Penguin, including the seven plays of Sophocles and the tragedies of Seneca.

--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
The place called Thebes lay in the central plain of Boeotia, part of the narrow tongue of land joining the Athenian country to the more northerly mainland. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and poetic 30 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Each section is well translated using poetic language that is inspirational to performers. Every word encapsulates the reader and allows them to follow the plot with ease.
Antigone is the best of the three as it is the struggle of a woman to overcome the strength of a king who feels that his ruling is more powerful than the Gods'. It is emotive and forces empathy to seep into the audience.
Overall it is excellent.
The chorus expresses the story and shows the audience the fate of man. The choric interludes are poetic and beautiful on their own but add meanig to the plays.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A read, and a re-read... 16 Sep 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I first read Oedipus the King when I was in high school, which was, well, more than a few years ago. I had never read the other two plays in this volume, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. So, there was the "perspective" read of "the King" after forty some years, and the two sequel plays. What happened to the principal characters after the terrible fate of Oedipus is revealed, and he undertakes his initial response of blinding himself? Colonus and Antigone provide the tragic answers.

Needless to say, some of the very first plays extant in Western civilization are long out of "copyright." There are some different versions of the play itself available, as well as varying translations, and introductory material. I have a Penguin Classic version, with an introduction (and translation) by E. F. Watling, which dates from 1947, and was renewed in 1974(and is also available at Amazon). The translation seems to "flow" very well. In the introduction, Watling presents succinctly the difficulties of doing a proper translation. No problem with words like "sea," or "mountain"; considerably more problems with "democracy," "king" et al. For me, the ultimate example of the translation difficulties is money. How much is one of their units of currency really worth? A consideration must be given to what it will buy, in other words, the overall economic context, and Watling says that his translation is aimed at that objective. For example, he uses the expression, in regards to thunder and lighting, "God's artillery," at a time when virtually no artillery existed, certainly in the modern sense.

Oedipus is one of those essential cultural references that one must know to be considered "educated." Freud famously made him into a "complex.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review 26 Mar 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This was in my university reading list. The quality of the book that came was excellent and it was delivered quickly. I found the plays really interesting having some prior knowledge of them I enjoyed close reading them. This text is perfect for anyone who need any of the contained plays for either study or just for pleasure reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Man's bitter destiny 23 May 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This small book contains three undisputable top masterpieces of world literature (written some 2500 years ago!) in a brilliant translation with an excellent introduction by E.F. Watling. Their author, Sophocles, draws through the ordeal of the House of Thebes a dark picture of man with Oedipus as a pars pro toto.

Oedipus as a pars pro toto (for mankind)
The chorus in `Oedipus King' proclaims: `Here is Oedipus, here is the reason why I will call no mortal creature happy.' Why? Oedipus: `I will know who I am. I cannot leave the truth unknown.'
And the truth is that Oedipus is innocent: `if any father was foredoomed by the voice of heaven to die by his own son's hand, how can you justly cast it against me, who was still unborn when that decree was spoken?' (Oedipus in Colonus)
But, for man `so strong is Destiny, no wealth, no armory, no tower, no ship that rides the angry sea her masterly hand can stay.' (Antigone)

Man's life
The chorus in `Antigone' proclaims: `Wonders are many on earth, and the greatest of these is man; he is master of ageless earth; he is lord of all the things living. O wondrous subtlety of man, that draws to good and evil.'
But, man is cursed by Fate; he is a defenseless plaything in the hands of `Fortune' and `Time': `For mortals greatly to live is greatly to suffer.' (Antigone), and. `Time, time, my friend makes havoc everywhere; he is invincible. The sap of earth dries up, flesh dies.' (Oedipus in Colonus)
Only fortune determines man's fate: `Chance raises a man to the heights, chance casts him down, and none can foretell what will be from what it is.' (Antigone), and, `yesterday my mourning of light, now my night of endless darkness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent translation 16 Mar 2012
By Pam
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really like this version which I think is ideal for students at Advanced Level. It's readable but keeps the dignity of the original Greek.
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