Oedipus the King • Oedipus at Colonus • Antigone

By Sophocles

The three Theban Plays by Sophocles – Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone – are one of the great landmarks of Western theatre. They tell the story of Oedipus, King of Thebes, who was destined to suffer a terrible fate – to kill his father, marry his mother, and beget children of the incestuous union. He does this unknowingly, but still has to suffer terrible consequences – which also tragically affect the next generation. These three plays were written around 450 BC with the playwright following the established convention of presenting the story through main characters, but using a ‘Chorus’ – sometimes one voice, sometimes more –as an independent commentator while also occasionally participating in the drama.
When the audiences of ancient Athens went to the amphitheatres to see the play they would have known the basic story of poor Oedipus. Nevertheless, the power of Sophocles’ retelling made The Theban Plays deeply horrifying and affecting – and this is still true now, some 2,500 years later.
There is also a strong contemporary resonance for us, for in the 20th century, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud famously adopted the story to illustrate his ‘Oedipus Complex’ which, he argued, was a condition of the unconscious mind in boys – that they want to sleep with their mothers. It is interesting that, through the character of the queen, Jocasta, in Oedipus the King, Sophocles states this unequivocally.
Oedipus the King is well-known. The other two are less so: Oedipus at Colonus, which deals with his last days, and Antigone, which casts the spotlight on his daughter who, part of the accursed blood line, chooses to act in a way she believes is right, whatever the consequences. Yet they are equally powerful and moving.
This new translation by Ian Johnston is the play script for The Oedipus Plays recorded by Audible Inc, with Jamie Glover as Oedipus, Hayley Atwell as Antigone, Michael Maloney as Creon, Julian Glover as Teiresias and David Horovitch and Head Chorus. It was directed by Garrick Hagon and produced by Nicolas Soames, and is available on Audible.

Translation: Richard Gummere



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