Book review: The Theban Plays (by Sophocles)

Title: The Theban Plays: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus & Antigone
Author: Sophocles
Publisher: Dover Thrift Editions (though undoubtedly available in countless editions)
Page count: 176 pages
Rating: 3/5 stars


Since last year, I’ve been starting to grow more and more interested in Ancient Greece. As a first start in my self-education in all things Ancient Greece, I already read Homer’s Iliad. Number two on the list of Classic Greek Literature? Sophocles’ Theban Plays. This is also my first foray into reading plays, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before either!

I picked up this little book last year, for a very simple reason: I knew only very little about the story of Oedipus, and was curious to read what the whole story was actually about. Really, that’s all it often takes for me to pick up something.

The Theban Plays consist of three plays, that are all about Oedipus and his family, especially his daughters Antigone and Ismene. It follows Oedipus’ discovery of his real family, and who his parents and his wife actually are. It then follows Oedipus and his daughters’ banishment from their city, and their subsequent travelings, drama, arguments, and further tragedy. If I learned anything from my recent reading, it’s that the Greek were extreme drama queens. Jeez. Lighten up, guys.

I have to say though, I really enjoyed reading these! They took me a bit longer than I anticipated (this book was a weekend-read as a break from The Count of Monte Cristo, but it took me a couple of days in the end). But it was very easy to read, the formatting was very clear and nicely done, and it was more interesting than I thought before I actually read them.

Although my favourite of the three plays was Oedipus Rex (the first one, and the most famous one), I did also like Antigone. I’m not a big fan of Oedipus at Colonus, though in terms of continuity I can see the necessity for it.

I would love to see an actual proper production of these plays one day, as I’m sure I’d get more out of them that way (I can totally see a musical version happening, the text definitely lends itself to being turned into lyrics). But even written down like this, I could imagine it all very clearly and easily, and I would recommend these plays to anyone who would like to start with classic Greek texts, or who would just like to know more about the story of Oedipus.

Have you read the Theban Plays, or anything else by Sophocles? Or do you have any recommendations on where to continue with classic Greek literature? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 Responses to Book review: The Theban Plays (by Sophocles)

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