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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
This review is from: The Theban Plays (Classics) (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 Sept. 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Theban Plays (Classics) (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." The King killed his father, and married his mother; both acts he did unknowingly. The play is also symbolic for its hubris. The Greeks used the "Chorus" as a wise and sometimes all-seeing audience. Like the cuckolded husband, everyone else seems to know what occured, long before Oedipus. Even Jocasta, the mother/wife of Oedipus, realizes the horror of what has transpired while Oedipus is still "blind" to it. Sophocles also uses wise, all-seeing, and usually blind prophets, like Teiresias, to foretell the events, past and future, to a metaphorically blind King. Vision and sight are one of the themes woven throughout the plays. And I had forgotten the ending, well worth recalling: "And none can be called happy until that day when he carries his happiness down to the grave in peace." Yes, much can go wrong in life.

As though the first play was not tragic enough, it continues downhill from there (yes, Oedipus is not in his grave yet.) He has four children (who, at least physically, seem to be "normal") despite the ultimate in incest. He has two boys and two girls. Only the one daughter, Antigone, is truly devoted to him, leading him around in exile. And it is a combination of his ex-brother-in-law, and his two sons, who have forced him out of his native Thebes. Colonus is just outside Athens, and he seeks refuge there. Both Creon, Jocasta's brother, as well as Polynices, his son, who tries the "return of the prodigal son" gamut, seek Oedipus out at Colonus. Alas, both have entirely selfish interests. Polynices' only interest is to gain his father's support in the ongoing war for the fate of Thebes, against his brother, Ethocles. Oedipus curses both, and places his fate in King Theseus of Athens hands. He decides to "shake off his mortal coil" and trusts Theseus not to reveal the location of his body; that was sound judgment finally. Also in "Colonus" Oedipus presents a good argument on why he should be so cursed, when he did not KNOW he was killing his father, and marrying his mother. In fact, he took steps to avoid that fate. For me, it resonated, since I'd always felt the doctrine of the Catholic Church that unbaptized babies when to "limbo," since it was not the babies fault. At least that particular doctrine has been abolished.

Antigone is truly the "dutiful daughter," as well as sibling. First, she sacrifices her own life, for her father, and then her decision, in the last play, to properly bury her brother, Polynices, who fell in battle trying to seize Thebes, leads to her condemnation to death by Creon. At least in this case, she was aware of the penalty before she consciously undertook the act. Of all the characters, Antigone is the most "sympathetic," and when she gives the classic anti-war argument to her brothers, on p. 114 of my edition, she gains even more. Wise, devoted, possessing integrity, all from the very beginning of recorded Western civilization. An essential read, or re-read. 5-stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Man's bitter destiny, 23 May 2013
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Theban Plays (Classics) (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.' (Oedipus King)

The character of man and woman
In Sophocles' plays the male and female protagonists have totally different characters. Men have `damnable ambition for power and kingly dominion', like the children of Oedipus: `Brothers sold their father for a throne, preferred the scepter and kingly power.' (Oedipus in Colonus)
The women are the champions of love: `Father, my love, in your shroud of earth we two shall love you for ever and ever.' (Antigone)
Oedipus in `Oedipus at Colonus': My children, to-day your father leaves you. This is the end of all that was I, and the end of your long task of caring for me. I know how hard it was. Yet it was made lighter by one word - love. I loved you as no one else had ever done.' (Antigone)
Antigone defends fiercely the universal law of `bury the dead' against the king's decree: `I do not think your edicts strong enough to overturn the unwritten unalterable laws of God and heaven, you being only a man.' (Antigone)

Politics
Also in politics, `great and terrible is the fall of mortal men, who seek their own advantage by using evil in the guise of good.' (Antigone)
Sophocles' plays are still highly relevant today. To Creon's `I am king and responsible only to myself', his son Haemon replies: `A one-man state? What kind of state is that? You'd be an excellent king - on a desert island.' (Antigone)

Sophocles wrote fascinating plays with raging deep emotions of love, arrogance and hate against a background of war and diseases. Their main themes are power and love expressed via tight family bonds, violent feuds and `fatal' destinies. He painted formidable `human', not always `humane', characters involved in universal/ personal, psychological, political and social conflicts. They are still highly relevant today, with `gods' as `implementers' of human fortunes.
These remarkable translations are a must read for all lovers of world literature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review, 26 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Theban Plays (Classics) (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 Excellent translation, 16 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: The Theban Plays (Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 31 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Theban Plays (Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
I received the older edition, nevertheless it still does the job
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The Theban Plays (Classics)
The Theban Plays (Classics) by Sophocles (Mass Market Paperback - 26 April 1973)
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