The Three Theban Plays – Sophocles Translated by Robert Fagles with Notes on the Translation: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Robert Fagles’ translation conveys all of Sophocles’ lucidity and power: the cut The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedip and millions of. In Meyer’s Bedford Introduction to Literature 8th editon, the Fagles translation, there are no marked or numbered scene breaks. See end of file for citing the play .

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At the same time, it is in some ways the most interesting. It is an interesting type of misogyny where failure to follow gender roles translatted untold tragedy, but the blame is placed not on the women but on the men who failed to protect them. Slowed down by over-long speeches, but the choral structure ensures that there is never any break, and just enough pause to tranxlated the heartbeat of impatience.

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The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles | : Books

Oedipus is the criminal, the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner, rboert the punishment he inflicts on himself for failing to abide by his own laws, even accidentally, is less merciful than the gods would have been. Like Antigone in the earlier play, Oedipus offers several explanations and none content me — perhaps, indeed, that is the point.

OK, a modern reader might say, get over it. His voice is understandable — too quick in temper, yes, and too tranwlated, but still a reasonable man with understandable, and even admirable, objectives — even if, like Antigone, his actual motivations do not live up to xntigone pronouncements.

His hubris has no influence on things, and acts only to ironically highlight the tragedy that we know is coming. Two last things to say. It is only because Oedipus sends to, and then listens to, the oracle at Delphi, that he embarks on his investigation, the investigation that will end with his own exile and blinding. They are, in a sense, incomprehensible, at least to me. Again, the plot is an unusual fgales — the main character gradually discovers that he has murdered his father and had children with his mother.

In Antigone, the first answer is characterisation.

I found myself, reading these, asking not what Sophocles did wrong, but simply: If that conclusion has a flaw, it is that the crimes related no longer seem so horrific as they did to Sophocles, and thus the punishment seems less merited. There are incredibly powerful emotions here, but they are very distant — made so by the language, the structure, the unreadable symbols of a dead culture, and simply by the fact that this is a play, and designed to be spoken and sung and not read, and at a different pace.


The argument that they should not have exiled him from Thebes seems weak — he commanded them to do so, and in any case the gods had demanded his exile as the price of the end of the plague.

Oedipus the King is probably the least interesting of the three but the most readable. Even the prose is unjudgeable, and that leaves alone all the traditions and tropes of the form and the content that are unrecoverable to me.

He is a pragmatist, and he cares about measurable things. It excells, however, in its construction — yes, there is still a degree of shouting and proclaiming, but it is much more under control than in Antigone. The two central characters — Creon and Antigone — both present compelling cases, yet both are also wholly inconsistent.

Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Second, the notes, by Bernard Knox — these are good, and very useful in providing some context and depth though they sometimes get carried away.

If Oedipus the King is the most understandable, Oedipus at Colonus is the least. His downfall is not through his worst features, but through his best — his reason, his dedication to the truth, his honesty.

Oedipus is, frankly, Jesus by this point.

So much is lost in that translation — the rhythms and rules of Greek poetry, even if they are followed by the translator, do not carry their import with them. Perhaps Oedipus is tagles meant to be antigonne as wholly rational at this point. People come, and people go, around the immobile Oedipus, and there seems little sense to it all, but the mystery adds to the ttranslated and at the heart of it, a man approaches his death.

I do use that word advisedly — but I use it because, despite its pagan credentials, this is a play with very Christian parallels. There is a wonderful Athenian hubris in it all — a fagpes lament over the inevitability of tragedy, its inescapability, its divine predestination, and yet at the same time the total denial of any divine role in it.

Dagles is it a curse of academic value only: But is that enough to justify one of the central curses of Greek mythology? Oedipus, like Jesus, is the scapegoat who takes all the sins of man with him into the afterlife — his life is tragic, but he is compensated by the powers of a demigod after death.

It is hard not to read the character of Athens into that heroic self-destruction. It is confusing, and it is sophisticated. Modern translations have often shown her as a freedom fighter and Creon as a tyrant — but it is equally valid to read Creon as the realist and Antigone as a suicide bomber.

The Three Theban Plays

The entire plot is mysterious to us — the mystical power that will be gained by the corpse of Oedipus once it is buried, and the importance of burying it in one place or another. It has a frightening absurdity to it. This is particularly true of Antigone, who justifies her actions many times over, but never the same way, and by the end seems antigonf to embrace their antigonee motivelessness.


Here, Sophocles is rather fonder of high melodrama, of literary allusions some now lost on usof people going around shouting a lot, and of long and flowery speeches.

In the earlier two trajslated, this was frustrating; translaged, it rises to be the central characteristic of our impression of the play. There are many genuinely striking phrases that deserve to be remembered, but too much of it is fluff, and the translation of the aeolic verse is neither natural nor powerful in English.

Antigonenaturally, is the most immature of the plays, even to an unstudied eye. But Oedipus is still not a benign figure. This mystical, transcendental play becomes more mystical by its unfathomableness, gains greater power by the extent of darkness that supports it and is hidden by it.

The argument that they should have followed him into exile is rather stronger, but still seems incongruous — this Oedipus, this Oedipus who spends the play forcefully asserting his innocence, the injustice of his punishment for actions that were not his fault, that were decided before his birth, seems a strange match translatrd an Oedipus who curses his sons to death for not allowing that punishment to extend another generation.

Most peculiar to us is the total absence of the war of the Seven Against Thebes — presaged in Colonus, all over before Antigone even begins. And so much also is lost robedt the context of their society — the meanings of things, the importance of things.

As Oedipus dies in the play, so too does the Athens of the audience — as it was gy written when Sophocles, like Oedipus, could see his own death approachingthe city was engaged in the final existential struggle faglds Sparta in which the Athenians, with Oedipal hubris, refused to accept the surrender of Sparta even at the verge of their own destructionand by the time the granslated could see the play performed, Athens had surrendered, its walls, fleet, port and empire destroyed, and was entirely dependant on the continued mercy of the Spartans.

This allows a great deal of foreshadowing of events outside of the plays — and allows other things to be glossed over. If he had been a worse man, his doom could have been avoided at any point.