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The Burial at Thebes: Sophocles’ Antigone

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  855 ratings  ·  82 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, 56 pages
Published 2005 by Faber and Faber (first published 2004)
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Christopher H.
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.
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
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
Heaney wrote this version of Sophocles' Antigone for the centenary of the Abbey Theatre. It's a highly accessible adaption, using simple and colloquial language. If you compare a couple of lines with the Fagles translation, for example:

493-4, in Fagles:
Fagles: "You, get out, wherever you please-you're clear of a very heavy charge."
Heaney: "All right. You're in the clear - so now clear off."

Fagles: "Ask Creon. Your concern is all for him."
Heaney: "Ask Creon, since you seem so fond of him."

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
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
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
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

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
This play takes place in Thebes at about 441 B.C. It's the story about a girl names Antigone who wants to rightfully bury her brother. But her father Oedipus considers his son a traitor and forbids her from doing so. At the time , Thebes was at war and one of her brothers was on the opposing army, they were both fighting for control over Thebes. He was killed and considered a traitor and Oedipus no longer recognized him as his son , so he did not bother for a patriotic funeral. Antigone and her ...more
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.
Nicole O'Connor
Let this be the ultimate telling of 'Antigone'. What Heaney has done here is make a beautiful translation that breathes life into this ancient play, making it far more enjoyable to the modern reader, by the pure skill of his own poetry.
This version made me realise that it is not the eccentric quirks or differences in Greek theatre compared modern theatre that can alienate an audience. It is in the writing.
All you need to love Greek theatre is get a damn good poet to bring out the sympathy and b
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
Sarah Graham
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
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
Antigone and Creon fight (with words) the issues of family loyalty, obedience to tradition, the powers of the state, and meanwhile the tale shows how emotions can run riot over common-sense (a regular theme of ancient Greek literature, to say the least!) Heanley's translation is easy to read and enjoyable, and much smoother and to the point than the other Antigone texts I have read.
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
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
Heaney's brisk Antigone is a commentary on Bush & Iraq, done up in different meters for different speakers. Unyielding Creon is stuck in iambic pentameter, the chorus in the old school 4-beat meter of the northern Euro epics, and tortured Antigone & Ismene use the 3-beat meter of the Irish, bless 'em.
The story strips some themes to concentrate on Creon's lust for vengeance driving him off the narrow road of righteousness. The chorus agrees with whomever has most recently spoken, and the
I felt this dumbed-down contemporary revision lost all the soul of the original. Flat, didactic, ironically prosaic for such a modern master.
Kay Bolton
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
Honestly I really didn't see much to like in this book. Maybe it was the Heaney translation and Sophocles' play is actually a masterpiece. Maybe it would appeal more to me if I saw it as play but really there's nothing in the story that I connected with and I can't find anything that you would connect with either. The play is rather dull and slightly depressing but even that was done in a boring way. I think maybe the story is just something that appealed to the Greek audience a long time ago.

Kiel Byrnes
Really similar to Oedipus the King. It gives another event after the exile of Oedipus and ends in practically the same way. Ritual suicide is seen as a sad, but necessary action in order to easily reconcile your failures with the Gods. The Gods gave each character a chance of atonement, and they were allowed to atone, or suffer for all eternity.
Gabriel Oak
Like Heaney's translation of Beowulf, this updated version of Antigone crackles with lyric intensity.
A very nice version of Antigone by one of the world's most worshiped poets. Personally, I've often found myself bored to piss by Heaney's work, and have struggled to see why he is worthy of such global beatification, but 1.) I think that may just be because I'm yet too young to appreciate his slow-burn poetic and subject matter, and 2.) that doesn't get in the way of this, because it's just a compelling play: if you were ordered not to bury your brother, for he had rebelled against the king, how ...more
Leila Anani
Seamus Heaney's modern reworking of Sophocles' Antigonie is beautifully done. It makes the text accessible and poignant and shows off his skill at language - the sunlight adazzle on the gulf, birds skirling overhead - classic Heaney choosing evocative words with such care.

As well as the rich language this also highlights the contemporary themes making this timeless - the fallibility and arrogance of government, man vs. woman, man vs. the state, the state vs. the gods. Mortal morality vs. somethi
Erin Leigh
I love this adaptation of the Sophocles' Antigone. I also played the role of the Messenger while I was in college. Some of the most beautiful language I have ever had the pleasure to perform (besides Shakespeare). It was one of my finest literary and acting experiences. I recommend this to anyone who loves hightened langauge, Greek tragedy, anything Greek really, Greek mythology, ancient history, etc. It's very moving and the Choruses are beautiful (we had some of them chanted, sung, and monoton ...more
Good intro to Heaney. Looking forward to Beowolf.
If you do not stand for your beliefs, what good is it to believe? If you do not act on your conscience, what good is a conscience? If you do not speak against injustice when you see it, what good is it to have a voice?

The story of Antigone remains a powerful story, especially in a time when change is undeniable. For some reason I always like a martyr in a story, and this one had several. Timeless and epic (in both senses of the word), I would suggest this book to anyone regardless of their inter
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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.
More about Seamus Heaney...
Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 Selected Poems, 1966-1987 Death of a Naturalist North District and Circle

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