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The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus

(The Theban Plays #1–3)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  60,380 ratings  ·  1,810 reviews
The heroic Greek dramas that have moved theatergoers and readers since the fifth century B.C.

Towering over the rest of Greek tragedy, the three plays that tell the story of the fated Theban royal family—Antigone, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus—are among the most enduring and timeless dramas ever written. Robert Fagles's authoritative and acclaimed translation conv
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 430 pages
Published January 3rd 2000 by Penguin Books (first published -450)
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Benjamin Banholi I was highly recommended Robert Fagles' Iliad. I enjoyed the work he did there and at the Odyssey, so when looking for the Theban Plays, I got his tra…moreI was highly recommended Robert Fagles' Iliad. I enjoyed the work he did there and at the Odyssey, so when looking for the Theban Plays, I got his translation again.(less)

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Start your review of The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus
Ahmad Sharabiani
Oidipous Epi Kolōnōi = Oedipus Tyrannus Coloneus and Antigone = The Theban Plays, Sophocles

Oedipus at Colonus is one of the three Theban plays of the Athenian tragedian Sophocles. It was written shortly before Sophocles' death in 406 BC.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و ششم آگوست سال 1974میلادی

عنوان: سه نمایشنامه : اودیپوس شاه، اودیپوس در کولونوس، آنتیگون؛ مترجم: محمد سعیدی؛ زیرنظر احسان یارشاطر؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب، نخستین بار سال 1334، در 196ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان یونانی - سده پن
Sean Barrs
The Three Theban Pays are the absolute pillar stone of ancient Greek drama, and in my opinion they contain two of the best plays ever written: Oedipus the King and Antigone.

Oedipus the King- because sometimes life's a real bitch.

Fate is unavoidable in ancient Greek Tragedy. Trying to avoid it will only lead to it, and doing nothing will lead you there too. So if a God tells you that you will die at the hands of your son, and that he will then go on to steal your wife, you’d best do noth
Elle (ellexamines)
This is how I feel about Antigone:

Translation Notes
I have read four versions of the Antigone, three versions of Oedipus Rex, and two versions of Oedipus at Colonus, over five years. I don't know why I'm like this either. (Comment your favorite Antigone translations and I'll read them.)

Oxford edition, trans. unk (2015): In ninth grade, I read the Theban plays in my English class. I liked them. Antigone, specifically, made a very very large impression on me. I promptly forgot every single thing I
'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
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was rather flippant about Greek drama throughout my time at university (much to the chagrin of every single professor teaching the unit), but even I had to concede to the immense talent of Sophocles: to cast a myth like Oedipus' on stage with such eloquence, and without leaning on its sensationalism, is inconceivable elsewhere in the theatrical tradition—unsurprising, then, that his Theban Plays have today become authoritative sources, rather than mere tellings, of the fate of the House of Cad ...more
Roy Lotz
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Alas, alas, what misery to be wise when wisdom profits nothing!

Great books do not reveal themselves all at once. Old classics must be revisited from time to time, at different stages of life, in order to experience the many resonant frequencies of the work. This time around I chose to listen to these Theban plays as an audiobook, with a full cast; and it was far preferable to the mute page.

Reading, listening to, or watching the Greek plays may be the nearest we get to time travel. The works
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, theatre
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
Brett C
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tragedy
I enjoyed rereading this set of plays. This edition sets the stage by giving an introduction before each play. The plays dive into the themes of fate, guilt, civil disobedience and family ties, and other historical Greek motifs.

There were text notes after the plays and a Greek persons/mythological/geographical glossary to help with the who/what/where questions. I enjoyed rediscovering this trilogy for a second time. I originally read them when I was in high school and remember them being intere
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wonderful. I know we need to read these in modern translations, but how amazing is it that we still have works from ancient Greece? These stories are not at all boring, or dated, or difficult to read. Pick the translation that suits you, whether poetry or prose or somewhere in-between and dive into some incredible drama.
When we face such things the less we say, the better

So my review will be brief. Picking this up I was quite a bit intimidated: 3 ancient Greek plays in English translation? I nearly expected not to understand anything at all or barely managing to follow the story. I worried in vain.

The whole time Sophocles made me go like this:

Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancients, drama
Of happiness the crown and chiefest part
Is wisdom, to hold the gods in awe.
This is the law
That, seeing the stricken heart
Of pride brought down,
We learn when we are old.

I felt an urge to return to the stories that set my mind on fire, way down the tunnels of time, and I chose blindly, or so I thought. Enjoying them even more today than I did the first two dozen times I read them, I nonetheless wondered why these plays ... and why now? In the middle of reading half a dozen other books, I still f
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ignorance of the Pa is No Defense

Mythical King Oedipus comes to the throne after unknowingly killing his pa. He later marries the woman who turns out to be his ma. In a brilliant and still-influential turn of irony, all the action in Oedipus the King occurs on the way he discovers that, in attempting to avoid his prophesied fate, he carries it out.

To atone, despite the fact that his appalling marriage to and bedding of his mother were acts committed in ignorance, he blinds himself with needles.

Lucy Langford
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5**** rounded up

Money! Money's the curse of man, none greater.
That's what wrecks cities, banishes men from homes,
Tempts and deludes the most well-meaning soul,
Pointing out the way to infamy and shame.

At 176 pages and consisting of 3 plays I was able to read this in one sitting (which never happens to me!).

After reading “Greek Tragedy” the other day- one of the plays was Oedipus Rex (or known in this book as Oedipus the King) and I was keen to find out more of what happened after the events
Oedipus the King was the first Greek tragedy I read in my life, when I was still of a single-digit school age and not exactly because it was compulsory reading for my class (who wants to inflict uninentional incest on young children, anyhow?). I don't recall how old I was, besides too young, nor the exact circumstances that led me to pick up an "adult" book, but I do recall the copy belonged to an older cousin of mine who was definitely reading it for school, and that I also read Homer's two epi ...more
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
Nov 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
*Note: I only read Oedipus Rex and Antigone, not Oedipus at Colonus.

There is literally nothing I could tell you about these plays that you don't already know from the thousands of books and movies that have referenced or been influenced by Oedipus ever since it was first performed. Four stars for overall story and dramatic themes, two stars because I didn't find it a very engaging or enjoyable read, averaged out to a nice three. Five stars for literary importance, though.

The self-fulfilling prop
Alternate title: in which everyone stabs or hangs themselves.

Seriously, this book features a hell of a lot of suicide. And I get it - finding out that you've been banging your son for the past 15-20 years can't be a pleasant experience. But this just ended up feeling repetitive to me.

The biggest problem with this one for me, I suspect, is that all the action in the story takes place off stage. And I totally understand why that's the case, but it means that all the reader/viewer gets is recaps
Justin Evans
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-and-drama
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/
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sadness seems to be a constant presence in my reading life these days. The didacticism and the role fate plays in Greek tragedies, I thought, were not my forte, but sylphs are the proof, how deeply I am in love with them now. The Theban Plays has been a great start for Greek tragedies. The helplessness and the doomed lives consistently made their presence felt.

The Theban Plays is essentially a collection of three plays by Sophocles: King Oedipus, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone (sequentially). W
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thing I like the most about Sophocles is his openness regarding darker fierceer aspects of human nature and the vile consequences,even if its the kings who r being unreasonable (read tyrants) he explicitly calls them out on it unlike many other ancient "king-pleasers", also I loved his love for his own city.
Antigone is probably one of my most fvrt stubborn famme fatale characters, well what can you do, like father like daughter!
It never ceases to amaze me though that all these ancient times mo
Akemi G.
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction, dramas
As always, I am torn among the many translations. I have this Penguin edition, translated by Robert Fagles (1982), and the older (1949) translation by Dudley Fitts & Robert Fitzgerald.

Fagles' translation reads well, but so does Fitzgerald's. Fitzgerald breaks down the play to scenes, which I like--even though these are short plays, I find Fagles' no-break translation rather tiresome. (I have no idea which style is more faithful to the ancient Greek original.)

Sometimes the two translations are
Nutshell: dude screws his mother in order to give psychoanalysis a set of master narratives.

Not a true trilogy, and written out of the order of this presentation, these texts commence from the unlikely proposition that Oedipus is somehow guilty for having scum parents--for the fact that "before three days were out / after his birth King Laius pierced his ankles / and by the hands of others cast him forth / upon a pathless hillside" (Oedipus Rex ll. 717-20) and thereafter, not knowing his father,
Daniel Chaikin
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
42. Sophocles I : Oedipus The King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone (The Complete Greek Tragedies)
published: 1954 (my copy is a 33rd printing from 1989)
format: 206 page Paperback
acquired: May 30 from a Half-Price Books
read: July 3-4
rating: 4½

Each play had a different translator

- Oedipus the King (circa 429 bce) - translated by David Grene c1942
- Oedipus at Colonus (written by 406 bce, performed 401 bce) - translated by Robert Fitzgerald c1941
- Antigone (by 441 bce) - translated by Eliz
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Star missing because I don't know Greek, and this translation is older than I am. I read Antigone in trans as a college freshman, taught Oedipus a couple dozen times, always applicable to the current epidemic--AIDS/ HIV, or whatever, first scene, citizens prostrate before the ruler who brought on the disaster, unbenownst. NOW we have a BENOWNST disaster-bringer to prostrate ourselves before--the Swamp-Drainer with his Cabinet of Swamp Monsters. And the Congress, the Full Swamp, has just eliminat ...more
I had to read Antigone, the third play in The Oedipus Cycle, in the 9th or 10th grade. The teacher filled us in about the occurrences in Oedipus Rex, but our starting point was only with Antigone. My memory fails to recall which grade exactly, but I certainly remember how my English teacher made it deathly boring. I can't remember which teacher, but it still clings to my memory his or her words about Oedipus' "fatal flaw." This was repeated over and over I guess to sound like an expert. One of t ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
These plays are world class literature. I originally read them a long time back (during an early "Classics" phase), and liked them well enough, though at the time I was sort of checking off boxes of Books-I-Must-Read. Reading these now, later in life, they have much more impact. I'm sure an additional boost came via Fagles' potent translations. An added plus are the outstanding introductions preceding each play, which create necessary historical and literary contexts to further enhance the plays ...more
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A good translation of the classic Oedipal plays.
Marie Michielsen
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In certain heroic natures unmerited suffering and death can be met with a greatness of soul which, because it is purely human, brings honor to us all." ...more
Edward Waters
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oedipus Rex: A.K.A. The Shittest Day EVER
“But all eyes fail before time’s eyes/All actions come to justice there” (1163-1164).

I'm creating a new shelf entitled "Kids Dig It," and to it I will add works kids of all ages dig --- bedtime stories like the Pokey Little Puppy and stories like Oedipus, which I am currently reading with 11th grade IB students.

It is bull shit to think teenagers don't like the classics. I'd like to bake a bull shit pie and slam it in the face of all such negative Nellies.
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Goodreads Librari...: Corrections 3 22 Dec 15, 2018 12:34PM  
All About Books: Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles (Gill, Pink, Greg, Leslie, Beth, Portia, and others?) 136 51 Jun 14, 2016 05:24AM  
Carlson 2341.06 F...: * Prophecy in Oedipus the King 45 28 Sep 04, 2015 10:14PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please revise book description 3 18 Aug 04, 2015 08:39PM  
Greek Plays are very epic 3 16 Aug 31, 2014 12:37PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Editions - combining 3 11 Apr 10, 2014 01:48PM  

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Sophocles (born c. 496 bc, Colonus, near Athens [Greece]—died 406, Athens), (Greek: Σοφοκλής ; German editions: Sophokles , Russian: Софокл , French editions: Sophocle ) 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 b ...more

Other books in the series

The Theban Plays (3 books)
  • Oedipus Rex  (The Theban Plays, #1)
  • Oedipus at Colonus (The Theban Plays, #2)
  • Antigone (The Theban Plays, #3)

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These twelve books are so consistently adored, they have become regulars month after month in our data of most popular and most read books on...
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“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.” 77 likes
“All men make mistakes.” 29 likes
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