The Theban Plays

The Theban Plays: "Oedipus the Tyrant"; "Oedipus at Colonus"; "Antigone"

Series: Agora Editions
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The Theban Plays
    Book Description:

    The timeless Theban tragedies of Sophocles-Oedipus the Tyrant,Oedipus at Colonus, andAntigone-have fascinated and moved audiences and readers across the ages with their haunting plots and their unforgettable heroes and heroines. Now, following the best texts faithfully, and translating the key moral, religious, and political terminology of the plays accurately and consistently, Peter J. Ahrensdorf and Thomas L. Pangle allow contemporary readers to study the most literally exact reproductions of precisely what Sophocles wrote, rendered in readily comprehensible English.

    These translations enable readers to engage the Theban plays of Sophocles in their full, authentic complexity, and to study with precision the plays' profound and enduring human questions. In the preface, notes to the plays, and introductions, Ahrensdorf and Pangle supply critical historical, mythic, and linguistic background information, and highlight the moral, religious, political, philosophic, and psychological questions at the heart of each of the plays. Even readers unfamiliar with Greek drama will find what they need to experience, reflect on, and enjoy these towering works of classical literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6890-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Translators’ Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Works Cited
    (pp. xvi-xx)
  5. Introduction to Oedipus the Tyrant
    (pp. 1-14)

    More than any other work of classical literature,Oedipus the Tyrantstill moves and fascinates us. Across the span of twenty-five hundred years, the play stirs our minds, fires our imaginations, and troubles our hearts in a rich variety of ways. It is the greatest of psychological dramas, one that uncovers our darkest desires to violate the most universal taboos of incest and patricide. It is the first and still most novel murder mystery, in which the detective proves to be the murderer he seeks. It is the most profound of moral tragedies, in which the unwitting criminal would seem...

  6. Oedipus the Tyrant
    (pp. 15-64)


    Oedipus [tyrant of Thebes]¹

    Elderly Priest of Zeus

    Creon [brother of Jocasta]

    Chorus of old Theban men

    Teiresias [aged seer]

    Jocasta [wife of Oedipus]

    Messenger [from Corinth]

    Servant of Laius

    Messenger [from Thebes]

    Oedipus:Oh children, young nurslings of ancient Cadmus,²

    Whatever are these seats you have thronged to take,

    Wreathed, and with suppliant olive branches?

    The city teems with incense, and

    With paeans³ for health, simultaneously with lamentations.

    And I, having deemed it just, children, not through messengers,

    Not through others, to hear, have myself thus come:

    He who is famous in name to all as Oedipus.


  7. Introduction to Oedipus at Colonus
    (pp. 65-80)

    Perhaps the most immediate responseOedipus at Colonusprovokes from us is not the tragic emotions of fear or pity but instead surprise—at the amazingly happy ending it provides to Sophocles’ tragic tale of Oedipus. To be sure, at the beginning of the play, we behold the wreckage of the once-great tyrant of Thebes, now “this wretched phantom of a man, Oedipus” (109–110). Once, he was “famous in name to all as Oedipus,” the wise hero who solved the riddle of the monstrous Sphinx and thereby saved Thebes from destruction (Oedipus the Tyrant, 8, 35–48, 390–398)....

  8. Oedipus at Colonus
    (pp. 81-138)


    Oedipus [exiled tyrant of Thebes]¹

    Theseus [king of Athens]

    Antigone [daughter of the union of Oedipus with his mother, Jocasta]

    Creon [brother of Jocasta, emissary of Thebes]


    Polyneices [elder son of the union of Oedipus with his mother, Jocasta, brother of Antigone and Ismene, and exiled ruler of Thebes]

    Chorus of old Attic men


    Ismene [sister of Antigone, born of the same union]

    Oedipus:Child of a blind old man, Antigone, to what

    Lands have we come, or to the city of which men?

    Who will today receive with scanty gifts

    The wanderer Oedipus?

    It is little...

  9. Introduction to Antigone
    (pp. 139-152)

    Sophocles’Antigonepowerfully presents a painful choice that all human beings at all times and places can imagine facing. We all have families, and we all belong to political communities of one kind or another. What if they clash? What if we are forced to choose between our flesh and blood and our country?

    Through his vivid portrayal of this dramatic conflict and its unforgettable characters—Antigone, Creon, Haemon, and Ismene—Sophocles raises a series of fundamental moral questions that all human beings must at some point confront and ponder. Does justice consist primarily of devotion to one’s family or...

  10. Antigone
    (pp. 153-196)


    Antigone [daughter of the union of Oedipus with his mother, Jocasta]¹

    Ismene [sister of Antigone, born of the same union]

    Chorus of old Theban men

    Creon [brother of Jocasta and new ruler of Thebes]


    Haemon [son of Creon and fiancé of Antigone]

    Teiresias [aged seer]


    Eurydice [wife of Creon and mother of Haemon]

    Messenger from within

    Antigone:Oh partner Ismene—my very own dear sister!

    Do you know then which of the evils from Oedipus,² Zeus—

    Whichof them?—He hasnotfulfilled for us while we yet live?

    For nothing either painful, or ruinous,

    Or shameful,...