Monday, January 25, 2016

A Vintage Reads Classic Review: The Theban PLays

Oedipus the King/Oedipus at Colonus/Antigone (The Three Theban Plays) by Sophocles and translated by Robert Fagles, February 7, 1984. 430 pages. Published by Penguin Classics. Source: Borrowed from Library.
Antigone defending her integrity and ideals to the death, Oedipus questing for his identity and achieving immortality - these heroic figures have moved theatergoers and readers wince the fifthe century B.C.

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: the cut and thrust of his dialogue, his ironic edge, the surge and majesty of choruses and, above all, the agonies and triumphs of his characters.
First Sentence:
My own flesh and blood-dear sister, dear Ismene, how may griefs our father Oedipus handed down!

Okay, so, I have actually seen the Three Theban Plays on various trips to book stores, and yet, I had never decided to pick them up. I know weird since I love classics! So, when Maggie (whose totally awesome) who suggested I read them, I, of course went right ahead and requested them from the library. BEST DECISION EVER!!

In my continuation of diving back into reading the classics, here's my thoughts on the Three Theban Plays (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone).

You know you're enjoying a book when you cannot even put it down to grab some food. The tragic story of Oedipus and his family just completely pulled me in; that and the writing/translation. I may have liked it even more the Iliad and the Odyssey, which is surprising.

In a way, the Oedipus Cycle reminded me at times of The Book of Job from the Bible. While this may sound like an odd comparison, my reasoning is that both Oedipus and Job faced trials that neither one sought out. For Oedipus, he left home and family in order to not fulfill the prophecy that he would cause the death of both his mother and father. Well, if you've read Oedipus the King then you know how that worked out. As well as all the trials he faced when his fate caught up with him.

There's this one section in Antigone that was just so powerful. That of her defiant words to her uncle Creon on why she went ahead and buried her brother whom Creon denied the rites of a proper burial (you can read it below). The reason I find this passage so powerful is that what Antigone is doing is a Corporal Work of Mercy in going against the wrongful order of her uncle by giving Polynices a proper burial. It really stood out for me because last year I had read the entire Bible and CCC. I could a length explain my thoughts on Antigone and the Enternal Law vs that of Natural Law, but, there is not enough time nor space to tackle that here. So, instead, here are some articles to read at the bottom of the post.

Yea, for these laws were not ordained of Zeus,
And she who sits enthroned with gods below,
Justice, enacted not these human laws.
Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal man,
Could'st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven.
They were not born today nor yesterday;
They die not; and none knoweth whence they sprang.
I was not like, who feared no mortal's frown,
To disobey these laws and so provoke
The wrath of Heaven. I knew that I must die,
E'en hadst thou not proclaimed it; and if death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain.
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery.

Even though I had never read either of these plays, I still kind of knew what was going to befall Oedipus and was his story would entail. Even so, I still could not peel my eyes from the story that was unraveling because it was so well written and the translation was so readable. I loved how crisp and to the point the story was as it just pulled me in.

I fear I may have rambled somewhat, but I just had so many thoughts upon this entire cycle of books. It's even still running through my head weeks after finishing it.

Final Verdict: The Theban Plays- Tragic and impossible to point down.

The Theban Plays earns
this book was borrowed from my local library. All thoughts are my own.

Some interesting articles

  1. Why Do Catholic's Bury the Dead
  2. Eternal and Natural Law: The Foundation of Morals and Law *search for Antigone in the article to find the section*
  3. Antigone, the Moral Heroine

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