Published: C. 429 BC
Year I read it: 2005, 2011
One sentence summary: Thebes is suffering from plague as a consequence of King Oedipus's unwittingly and unknown self-fulfilled prophecy that he will murder his father and sleep with his mother.
Interesting fact: While the trilogy this play was a part of did not take home 1st prize at the City Dionysia, since Aristotle it has been considered the greatest of the Greek tragedies.
Three reasons to read it:
- It's not just Aristotle - this play is widely considered one of the best written plays of all time.
- Sophocles goes to great lengths to heighten dramatic irony within the play and, in so doing, he creates nail-biting suspense. This obviously makes him the precursor and inspiration for the dramatic irony in Shakespeare. [By the way, for more incredible dramatic irony, read Seneca's Phaedra - SO good!]
- This is one of the greatest classics and it's short - only 65 pages. It's also a remarkably accessible play if you're just entering (or re-entering the classics). I personally recommend this translation.
One reason you maybe shouldn't:
- It is about a man who's murdered his father and slept with his mother. I must clarify that he didn't do either intentionally or knowingly, but it is the central conflict of the play.
"No river is great enough, not the Danube,
Not the Phasis, to wash this house clean.
So deep is the stain of evil here.
Soon it will come to light:
The worst pain is self-chosen, deliberate."
"How dreadful the knowledge of the truth can be
When there’s no help in truth.”
“How terrible-- to see the truth when the truth is only pain to him who sees!”