Hello, February! I hope you enjoyed last month’s classic read, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It’s a new month, which means it is time for a new classic. This month, we’re reading The Oedipus Cycle of Sophocles!
Don’t forget: We have a Goodreads group! And we’re using #CBAM2017 to chat on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
About the Cycle: The three plays that make up Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle (sometimes referred to as the Three Theban Plays) are Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus. Antigone and Oedipus the King are tragedies; Oedipus at Colonus is difficult to classify. Antigone was written around 441 b.c., Oedipus the King around 430 b.c., and Oedipus at Colonus around 406–405 b.c. (just before Sophocles died). The plays were all written and produced in Athens, Greece. Antigone, though written first, actually takes place after the other two.
The plays probably circulated in fifth-century b.c. Athens and have come down to modern editors through the scribal and editorial efforts of scholars in ancient Greece, ancient Alexandria, and medieval Europe. The most important modern edition of the Greek texts, prepared by A. C. Pearson, was published by Oxford University Press in 1924 and reprinted with corrections in 1928.
All three plays are set in the mythical past of ancient Greece. Antigone and Oedipus the King are set in Thebes, Oedipus at Colonus in Colonus (near Athens). In Oedipus the King, Tiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus is responsible for the plague, and Oedipus refuses to believe him. In Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus’s two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, are at war over the throne. Creon has been told by the oracle that only Oedipus’s return can bring an end to the civil strife in Thebes but Oedipus, furious at Thebes for exiling him, has no desire to return. Antigone’s major conflict is between Creon and Antigone. Creon has declared that the body of Polynices may not be given a proper burial because he led the forces that invaded Thebes, but Antigone wants to give her brother a proper burial.
Feel free to read at your own pace, post at your own pace (or not at all), and drop by to comment/chat about the book at any point. The schedule above is just the one I plan to use in order to keep myself organized and to provide some standard points and places for anyone who is reading along to get together and chat.
Note on Reading Order: The Theban plays were not written in chronological order. They were written for separate dramatic competitions and there are inconsistencies between them because they were not meant to be performed in sequence (scholars made that decision much later). It is believed they are three parts of separate groups of plays which have not survived. I will be reading the plays in the order of dramatic events rather than in the chronological order they were written.
Actually I have started with Antigone (because in my copy, Antigone comes first). But halfway I changed my mind, I think it would be more fun to follow the dramatic events order. So now I’m in the middle of Oedipus the King.
It’s nice to return to Greek plays, I always prefer it compared to Renaissance’s. It feels more dramatic, like I am watching a live performance myself (I haven’t done this in reality).