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

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  1,236 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published November 3rd 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2004)
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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
I have just finished reading four different translations of Sophocles' classic tragedy Antigone, which was chronologically the first of his three great 'Theban Plays.' The other two, in the order written, include, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus. Antigone is thought to have been written around 441 BCE. I thought it might be interesting to briefly compare and contrast the four very different translations that I read. As is to be expected, each had strengths and weaknesses. At least you'll ...more
Samir Rawas Sarayji
This review has been moved to Samir's Critical Corner here.
Jan 24, 2008 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
Versions, as opposed to translations, are becoming quite common. They seem to have two virtues, allowing contemporary writers to attempt the classics without having to be fluent in the source language, and providing extra license to creatively explore the story. Heaney has now twice taken on Sophocles tragedies. Both have been excellent re-renderings, though I’d give The Cure at Troy the overall edge. The language in The Burial at Thebes reminds me of Heaney’s earliest poetry collections, Death ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Jane rated it it was amazing
Haney's version of this classic drama, commissioned for the centenary of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Haney uses the cadences of the Gaelic poetry of the Irishwoman Eibhlin Dubh for the speakers and chorus. I loved the accessibility of story, the ease of reading, the smoothness and sometimes lyricism of the language. I read it out loud, which made it more meaningful. The plot boiled down to an ethical dilemma--whether the body of the heroine's brother should be buried with all due rites although ...more
Sep 16, 2011 Alex rated it it was amazing
Seamus Heaney's Antigone 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.

The general plot:our heroine Antigone just wants to bury her brother; but King Creon is all "That guy was a dick and I'm going to let the vultures eat him." He broke the rules, and Creon has to mak
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 g ...more
Jul 30, 2016 Drew rated it really liked it
Shelves: classical, drama
A nicely done translation with an excellent note by Heaney at the end that explained how he worked on this volume. The story is very good and I've been lucky to have see different versions performed live. Sophocles's story still resonates today in how power can be used and abused.

One line of the play that really hit strong was Antigone explaining that her brother would not be upset by her burying her other brother: "The dead aren't going to begrudge the dead" (p. 33).

Heaney writes in his note
I feel like I'm cheating by reviewing a book I was forced to read for my studies. But it actually was very interesting, The Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney is a translation of Sophocles' play Antigone, the last of the three Theban plays. I admit I did need to read the first two and already have a basic knowledge on the characters and Greek mythology in order to really appreciate this play. I like the messages hidden in the seemingly simple structure and dialogue. I also have a morbid love of t ...more
Mar 26, 2016 Alexandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was reading this for my degree, and I kept being pulled out of the story to write notes, so it wasn't really an enjoyable leisurely read.

Nevertheless, I think it's worth a read. This is a good version (not a translation!), if the ancient greek doesn't take your fancy. It's a good story, typical of the Greek Dramas, with good relatable characters.

I don't know if Shakespeare was actually influenced by the great greek plays, but you can see similarities in a lot of Shakespeare plays to the stor
Natasha Jackson
Jul 29, 2016 Natasha Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As part of an assignment, this book found its way into my reading list. Though not being my typical choice, I thoroughly enjoyed Heaney's contemporary rendition of Sophocles' Antigone (an-tig-on-ee for those who are as stupid as me and keep reading it as anti-gone). Heaney may not be a dramatist, but the way in which this story is presented poetically is riveting. For such few pages, the themes of love, death, light, dark, pride and obsession are explored thoroughly. The read is an emotional rol ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Dec 28, 2009 Audra (Unabridged Chick) rated it really liked it
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 m ...more
Louise Lake
Jan 16, 2017 Louise Lake rated it really liked it
I read this as part of my reading list for university. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first began reading, but after reaching the end I found that I really enjoyed the story. The language is not hard to follow and understandable. The story is of how karma comes around to King Creon after his punishments upon Polyneices and Antigone. The ending was surprising and all in all was an enjoyable read that I didn't expect to like.
Mar 14, 2013 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Not only is Heaney's translation of Antigone amazingly close to Sophocles' Greek, but it also brings out the play's relevance to contemporary politics, whether that be the American invasion of Iraq or the drama over Osama Bin Laden's corpse.
Ailin Li
Sep 18, 2015 Ailin Li rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lauren J
Mar 26, 2017 Lauren J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very accomplished translation which stays true to the drama and tragedy while adding some of Heaney's poetic magic. Brilliant. It is easy to read in a single sitting as well because it is only 56 pages long.
Debs Lock
Mar 16, 2017 Debs Lock rated it liked it
I read this as part of my OU degree. Whilst it wouldn't be my usual choice of reading material, I enjoyed it and learnt a lot about the conventions of Greek tragedy.
Duncan Hendry
The Theban Plays are some of my favourite pieces of literature ever, and Antigone is seen as one of the more famous and restaged of the three that survive. This version of Sophocles' final chapter in the trilogy is a work of art. It is beautiful, so insanely readable and immediate. The characters are rich once again, they thrive, they devour. This is strangely my first Seamus Heaney, though it won't be the last.
Feb 24, 2017 Vasilia rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 11, 2016 Iain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "new translation" of the original Antigone. I'm not sure how Heaney "translated" it because to my knowledge he wasn't an expert on Ancient Greek. It mostly reads like a dumbed down version of Antigone with more modern speech patterns and dialogue.

Supposedly he tried to politicize the play by adding references to George W. Bush into it. None of this exists aside from a one off comment to "the desert." It seems like media bate that never actually comes into existence. It's possible that other re
Michael Arnold
This is not a totally awful version of Antigoni, but nor is it really very good. This version really shines during the quick and snappy back and forths between the characters - and if I was judging this purely for the story my rating for this book would no doubt be higher. But this was Sophocles' story, not Heaney's and so I have to judge this on Heaney's language alone.

Frankly, there are a lot of clichés used here, and I can't really understand why. Heaney is pulling no punches here, uses ever
Feb 05, 2014 Phillip rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
What I like about Heaney's 'version' of Antigone is that while it sticks quite close to the original--the plot is the same, much of the language is similar--there is a subtle shift, especially in the play's first half, that sounds distinctly post-9/11. Some of Creon's dialogue especially sounds as though it comes directly from GW Bush's public statements. For instance, Creon's assertion that "Whoever isn't for us / Is against us in this case" (7) parodically re-presents Bush's repeated claims th ...more
May 27, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, nobel-winner
I recently read the Fagles' translation of Sophocles' Antigone and had thought that this would make a nice companion piece. I had thought based on the title that this was an adaptation of the play but it turned out to be a fairly straight-forward translation. Heaney brings his own poetic gifts to the translation and I would recommend this 'version' to anyone interested in reading this play.

Here is an example of Heaney's translation, in a passage at the beginning of the play (Antigone is talking
May 18, 2016 Kelsey rated it really liked it
Shelves: grove-city
How to write a review on a play where all characters except the conspirator kill themselves in the end? Antigone is a greek tragedy reminding me of my experience with the play Agamemnon in high school. As is typical with Greek tragedies, the protagonist has a makes a major mistake and only realizes this mistake after a lot of counsel. In this case, Creon is the protagonist who promises to kill Antigone due to her wish to bury her dead brother, Polycleites. The gods are invoked and I find myself ...more
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it
This is not a pleasant play. In fact, sometimes I think it is a re-run of a Jerry Springer Show tape.

But the liberties that Heaney takes in presenting an updated, spirited and lively play actually work. It could have been really be close to being a disastrous farce. The secret lies in Heaney's having the time-honored text to start with--how could he go wrong?

I really like this play because I see it as a literary antidote to oppressive governments and tyrannical authorities. Within the covers o
Aug 08, 2011 Zzoeeeee rated it it was amazing
Seamus Heaney's translation is very readable (much like his Beowulf translation infact). The main plot turns are clear from the start, and the subtleties come readily from analysis. The action takes place in the court of Creon, yet he creates separate scenes in the imagination for the tomb where the deaths take place.

Antigone is both tempestuous and courageous making her a very likable character in the reader's mind. Yet she only sees the inherited disgrace from her father Oedipus, replaying his
Sarah Graham
Jul 24, 2014 Sarah Graham rated it did not like it
This is an adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone, translated into modern English. I was looking forward to it, I thought it would be quite interesting having studied Oedipus at school. I really didn't like the snappiness of the English though; all the 'floweriness' was removed which while I'm sure it makes it easier for a novice to ancient drama to read, it just made the whole thing feel bald and dull, despite the level of drama in the original story.

I have an old version of Antigone, from 1947, tra
Jul 17, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The plot itself is a bit predictable, but the most important thing is of course the language and how the characters speak. There are some great speeches throughout infused with evocative poetic dialogue. I think there will be much to savor on subsequent readings. One particular moment echoes very much whats happening in the UK just now in the Phone hacking scandal -

These people and how they operate,
maybe they are not the actual perpetrators, but they possess
The money and the means to bribe thei
Jun 27, 2013 Naomi rated it liked it
What I found most surprising about 'The Burial at Thebes' was how accessible and contemporary Heaney's translation is. At times I almost forgot the historical and literary context surrounding the play, but then a little burst of archaic diction would come along amid the dialogue and I'd snap out of it.

Creon in particular was a character I found hard to believe. Most of the play is utterly consumed with his disdain for Antigone's action of respectfully burying her brother, and also his cruel inte

I love Antigone. The story is probably my favorite non-gods-related one in Greek literature, mythological or dramatical or what have you. I've read a couple translations - not many, but a few - and I was looking forward to a more modern take in Heaney's translation.

It was and it wasn't. The language was more modern, with punchier dialog and simpler sentence structure. But that's about where the modernness ended - there wasn't really a modern vocabulary or sensation. It fe
Kay Bolton
Jul 14, 2014 Kay Bolton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star, saga, classics
A year ago I would have laughed heartily and long if anyone had told me I'd give one of the Classics A 5 star review.

It is one of the book's on the Open University AA100 The Arts past and present module, and I had been ambivalent at best, so when my Amazon package arrived I just thought it would be a quick flick through. How wrong could one girl be?

From the first word I was hooked. Seamus Heaney has done the most excellent job of making this Classic readable, and more importantly understandable
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Seamus Justin Heaney was an Irish poet, writer and lecturer from County Derry, Ireland. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

Heaney on Wikipedia.
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