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The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus (The Theban Plays #1–3)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  41,771 ratings  ·  781 reviews

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 his choruses and, above all, the agonies and triumphs of his characters.
ebook, 432 pages
Published February 1st 1984 by Penguin Books (first published -400)
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'Take these things to heart, my son, I warn you.
All men make mistakes, it is only human.
But once the wrong is done, a man
can turn his back on folly, misfortune too,
if he tries to make amends, however low he’s fallen,
and stops his bullnecked ways. Stubbornness
brands you for stupidity – pride is a crime.
No, yield to the dead!
Never stab the fighter when he’s down.
Where’s the glory, killing the dead twice over?”

(Tiresias, the blind prophet, to Creon, king of Thebes, uncle of Antigone in ‘Antigone
Sophocles Theban play cycle, Antigone, Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, spans the length of his career as a playwright. Traditionally, Antigone is placed at the end of the cycle, but chronologically it was the first that Sophocles wrote. I think this offers a big key to interpreting the plays as a whole. This key has to do with the evolution of Athenian society and how the subject-matters dealt with in the plays relate to the rapid growth and decay that Democratic Athens experienced—a period ...more
This Robert Fagles translation is beautiful--far superior to other versions I've read (Fitts/Fitzgerald or David Greene's, for instance). The language is vibrant and compelling, an important asset for reading drama on the page. If you've not read Sophocles since a forced-and-indifferent slog during high school, I'd encourage you to rediscover it in a better light with this translation. Highly recommended.

This was my first time reading all three "Oedipus plays" in succession, and I appreciated th
I thoroughly enjoyed this translation of Sophocles Theban plays. Robert Fagles placed the plays in the order written, rather than in their dramatic chronology. At first I thought this was strange, but I followed his lead and read 'Antigone' first. Now, after reading Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, I have a much greater feeling for Antigone's suffering and a much better understanding of Creon's perspective as well. Now I'm ready to re-read Antigone better armed with the facts of their re ...more
Justin Evans
So... not over-rated. Fagles' translation is solid, much clearer than his Aeschylus, though I actually prefer the opacity he brought to that text. Of course, that might have been in Aeschylus. I will never learn Greek well enough to tell.

Antigone was the earliest of these plays, though the last within the narrative. I can't help but read it with my Hegel glasses on: the clash between Creon and Antigone is an example of a failed conceptual grasp of the world, in which the claims on us of family/
Rachel Lightwood
Oedipus Rex was the only play I read out of this anthology of Sophoclean tragedies. It was surprisingly quite amusing. I thought it would be more... well, tragic really. The ugly sobbing kind of tragedy - Titanic style. But instead it read like a soap opera. The drama scale was beyond imaginable. We had people dying and crying left, right and centre. It was fantastic!

The writing was good too. It had the feel of a ancient Shakespearean play but was much more "readable". There was no need to have
So, what did we learn? Circle one

1. Embrace any prophecy, as fighting against it will only make it come true
2. Always give way to anyone playing chicken with you on the road
3. Stay in school and pay special attention to "riddles," because only smart people end up with a good career as a king
4. Don't marry the widows of any king, unless you have her DNA checked
5. If you accidentally marry your mother, don't tell her because she will hang herself
6. If you have two brothers, don't break the law in
Steven Peterson
The Theban plays are extraordinarily rich in their observations on the human condition; let us consider lessons to be drawn from these.

The first tragedy, King Oedipus, begins with the city of Thebes suffering great afflictions. King Oedipus swears that he will find the cause of the evil and improve the lot of the Thebans. His uncle, Creon, found that the pestilence would be lifted when the murderer of the previous king, Laius, was brought to justice. Oedipus immediately ordered that the killer
Steve Hemmeke
Really depressing.

The major theme is that you can't avoid the fate of the gods, even if you try. The upside is, even if you draw a short straw, you can still be pious and reverent toward the gods, and wise and loving to your family.

Oedipus definitely drew a short straw. That doesn't mean his life was short, though. He lives a long life, and the last decade or so is all agony over his bizarre circumstance.

In part one we learn about that craziness. Key theme is the truth. The truth will come out.
What a brutal, awful world it was for the pagans. They believed in gods who, for no reason at all, sentenced men to arbitrary acts of inhumanity--even so designed as to be done unknowingly, yet with terrifying consequences.

The story of Oedipus and his family is simply awful. It makes for an interesting story, but the fact that the Greeks believed the world was so ordered that such things occurred demonstrates their own spiritual blindness and willful ignorance of the order of grace and justice o
Reading the Theban plays in Fagles translation takes me back to the overwhelming tension at the heart of Oedipus Rex. The character of Oedipus is the centre of the play, and the great questions: why he wants to fathom the mystery of his origins and why he keeps going. Freud's reading is unfortunate because it is so literal and tends to colour our view of the myth itself. It's a broader exploration of our relationship with the past: the desire to see and know what it contains, even when the knowl ...more

Your Name: Julie Barnard
Date: 1/4/10

Main Characters in the Text (if there are multiple works within one text, name the work, followed by the characters):

Genre of the work (play, novel, poem, etc.):


Action of the work or the sequence of events (if there are multiple works within one text, name the work and only include the most important events):

Action sequences include when Oedipus kills the king of Thebes (without knowing he is the k
Ana Lo
King Oedipus

Your Name: Ana Lo
Date: 1/04/10

Main Characters in the Text (if there are multiple works within one text, name the work, followed by the characters):
• King Oedipus
o Oedipus
o Jocosta
o Teiresias
o Creon
o The Chorus
• Anigone
o Antigone
o Creon
o Ismene
o Haemon

Genre of the work (play, novel, poem, etc.):
- A Play

- The City of Thebes

Action of the work or the sequence of events (if there are multiple works within one text, name the work and only include the most im
Edward Waters
Most English translations of, say, the Greek New Testament are shepherded by a conviction that the original words had divine inspiration and so are best rendered verbatim wherever possible. At the same time, there generally is a concession (for good or ill) to the reality that if what results is not sufficiently lofty and reverential in tone, the faithful are unlikely to accept it. Attempts at classical Greek drama and poetry tend to be guided by rather different considerations: The translator's ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus The Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) (Wordsworth Classics)… by Sophocles

This is the Wordsworth Classics edition of Antigone / Ἀντιγόνη, Oedipus the Tyrant / Οιδίπους Τύραννος and Oedipus at Colonus / Οἰδίπους ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ, all translated by Jamey Hecht. I took them fairly slowly, to let the blank verse translation sink gently into my mind.

I found Antigone / Ἀντιγόνη the most politicall
Sophocles really knew how to make a tragedy that's for sure.

the first play plods along nicely and then you are hit with a real shocker, it is quite moving and you do feel for Oedipus.

The second play was pretty weak, this may just be me struggling with understanding what's going on but it seems that Oedipus gets told a prophecy and then just carries it out. It feels like Sophocles was a bit stuck for ideas.

The final play is back to being very good, lots happening and a crazy amount of death.

I ha
Jeni Enjaian
I'll start this review by saying that I am definitely not the target audience. While I enjoy attending the occasional play and love Shakespeare, I find that reading most plays leaves something to be desired. That being said, I found this particular plays very limited in scope. Perhaps that's due to both the genre and the time in which they were written. The plot was incredibly easy to predict. (Although I suspect that even the mildest familiarity with Greek mythology will render the plots of the ...more
Poses interesting moral questions and tells a good story.
Caio Leonardo
Sófocles é o mestre absoluto da tragédia. Édipo Rei, o ápice da forma - ao menos do que nos chegou dela. A peça é referência sobre como montar uma trama, estabelecer conflitos, construir peripécias e expor personagens a uma crueldade elaborada e, claro, catártica. Conhecer o mito é uma coisa. Conhecer o tratamento dado a ele por Sófocles, outra. As tragédias têm essa peculiaridade de evolução cênica de quase nada da trama efetivamente acontecer diante dos olhos da plateia. Todos os contornos da ...more
Jaylen Allen
Jaylen Allen
May 12, 2015

Everybody’s beliefs can be totally different, some people might be Muslim, Catholic Christian or some even just be superficial. In this case I am Christian, I believe that there is something more powerful than any man and I always will. In the book Oedipus the King by Sophocles, the people lived their lives based off of what an Oracle tells them. The Thebes people strictly live their life based off fate. The king and queen of Thebes never doubt the pr
David Withun
Sophocle's Theban Cycle, of course, contains three of the greatest plays ever written: Antigone, Oedipus Rex, and Oedipus at Colonus. There is little that can be said, in a short review like this one, that has not already been said about these plays. They are masterpieces of the human imagination which explore some of the perennial themes of human life: justice, death, destiny, truth, power, family, sin, redemption -- to name but a few. All of these plays are essential reading for any educated p ...more
I've gone through these plays time and again, every few years: AP English, the Great Con, while teaching Advanced Drama, getting a Masters Degree and now, for FUN!

I'm not joking about that, it really can be fun to read and reflect on the power, the poetry and the problems that Sophocles deals with throughout his work. The hierarchy of duty, from gods, to the family, to the state bleeds through these plays. The concepts of fate, of fear, of foresight and freedom, they all crop up again and again
wow, these stories were awesome! much more interesting than when i read them in high school. i dont remember reading the third one - and that was the best one! jameys footnotes have some valuable contents, including some very powerful insights into the text.

i thought the shakespearean style was just perfect for these texts. sophocles seems to have an understanding of people and their relations on the same sublime level of shakespeare. would fit in perfectly beside king lear.
I usually enjoy the books I have to read for class, and this one was no exception. It was fascinating to know the story behind Oedipus from reading a Greek play about him, rather than just learning about the "Oedipus complex" from psychology. For one thing, psychology classes only look at the fact that Oedipus killed his father and slept with his mother. It doesn't take into account that he does so without even knowing who his parents are and everything that happens being part of a prophecy sent ...more
Edipo Re non ha bisogno di presentazioni, credo. Bellissimo, e mi ha fatto morire il discorso finale di Edipo che, per consolare le figlie, predice loro una vita di sfighe e condisce il tutto con qualche metafora sessuale decisamente poco azzeccata -e nemmeno tanto metafora.
Edipo a Colono, la pi lunga della triade, conclude le avventure di Edipo che cerca protezione sotto le ali di Teseo. I toni sono un po' meno tragici, visto che -sotto sotto- a Edipo non succede poi niente di cos tremendo. Bel
I just read this book for English class and it was very good. The poetry was powerful and elegant, just what a translation of Sophocles should be. My favorite of the three plays is Antigone, followed by Oedipus at Colonus. I've read Antigone twice, once the Robert Fagles translation, twice in this one, and Oedipus Rex twice, this and the J.E. Thomas translation. I have to say, this was a better Oedipus Rex (still feels like the weakest of the plays, but I think I know why I feel like that), but ...more
Thasin Ahmed
I think the book was good. At first it may seem a little confusing. Especially if you don't know much about Greek Mythology, but soon it gets interesting. The main character if this book is Oedipus. He wants to know why Thebes ( the city he's ruling) is out of control. he then figures out that there is evil and he want to know how and why there's evil in Thebes. It's interesting how the book turns out to be. There's a lot of things that Oedipus knows that he didn't know before. He struggles to f ...more
Oedipus was written by Sophocles, one of the three Greek tragedians. I know it seems like a long time ago but it's truly in my opinion a interesting/ weird story. Oedipus is the King of Thebes, he live there with his wife and kids. He originally ran away from his town so he's prophecy wouldn't become true but I guess that wasn't enough. In his way to Thebes, the prophecy he feared the most become true and by staying in Thebes it became all real. This shows how no matter what prophecies come true ...more
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Greek Plays are very epic 3 13 Aug 31, 2014 12:37PM  
conflict 5 40 Jun 13, 2012 07:58PM  
  • Euripides 1: Alcestis/The Medea/The Heracleidae/Hippolytus
  • Prometheus Bound and Other Plays
  • Four Plays: The Clouds/The Birds/Lysistrata/The Frogs
  • Greek Tragedies, Vol. 1: Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound; Sophocles: Oedipus the King, Antigone; Euripides: Hippolytus
  • The Comedies
  • The Pot of Gold and Other Plays
  • Jason and the Golden Fleece (The Argonautica)
Sophocles (Greek: Σοφοκλής; German editions: Sophokles, Russian: Софокл) was an ancient Greek tragedy playwright. Not many things are known about his life other than that he was wealthy, well educated and wrote about one hundred and twenty three plays (of which few are extant). One of his best known plays is 'Oedipus the King' (Oedipus Rex).
More about Sophocles...

Other Books in the Series

The Theban Plays (3 books)
  • Oedipus Rex
  • Oedipus at Colonus
  • Antigone
Oedipus Rex Antigone Antigone / Oedipus the King / Electra Oedipus at Colonus Electra

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“All men make mistakes.” 22 likes
“If through no fault of his own the hero is crushed by a bulldozer in Act II, we are not impressed. Even though life is often like this—the absconding cashier on his way to Nicaragua is killed in a collision at the airport, the prominent statesman dies of a stroke in the midst of the negotiations he has spent years to bring about, the young lovers are drowned in a boating accident the day before their marriage—such events, the warp and woof of everyday life, seem irrelevant, meaningless. They are crude, undigested, unpurged bits of reality—to draw a metaphor from the late J. Edgar Hoover, they are “raw files.” But it is the function of great art to purge and give meaning to human suffering, and so we expect that if the hero is indeed crushed by a bulldozer in Act II there will be some reason for it, and not just some reason but a good one, one which makes sense in terms of the hero’s personality and action. In fact, we expect to be shown that he is in some way responsible for what happens to him.” 21 likes
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