Reading thoughts: The Theban Plays

Sidetracked my reading (via a starter book on Nietzsche covering The Birth Of Tragedy) onto Sophocles’ Theban plays, a trilogy of 5th century B.C. dramas that has been sat in my bookcase for five years or more.

Happy I did, because in the same manner as the early Plato, this is writing that is profoundly and enrichingly beautiful. This is dependent on the translation and this one, by E.F. Watling from 1946 (in Penguin Classics) really succeeds in providing this. Though as with Goethe’s Faust last year, I found my increasingly reverent appreciation of the words took the edge off my absorption of the work’s themes and characterisation (perhaps due to my lack of familiarity with the form).

The drama is set around the existing grand narratives of tragedy of the House of Thebes: primarily the fall of Oedipus. I was more into the immediacy of the writing than the themes; as the primary work, King Oedipus is a reworking of the familiar tale of mis-happenstance – that I was chewing over the machinations of the plot too much (one for a re-read). The other two plays were less complex and I was less distracted by the plot, perhaps more to my reading enjoyment. Verdict: deffo a classic.

  

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