how many have you read?

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  • Dante | Inferno
  • Thoreau | Walden
  • Sophocles | Oedipus Rex
  • Kafka | Metamorphosis
  • Melville | Moby-Dick
  • Shakespeare | Hamlet
  • Homer | The Odyssey
  • Austen | Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte | Jane Eyre
  • Steinbeck | Of Mice and Men

the number 8 pick

In this clip, Sarah Christensen Fu—Online Content Coordinator—talks about Sophocles' classic. Click here to watch the complete twenty-minute video program, The Ten Essential Penguin Classics, highlighting each of the essential books.

Oedipus Rex

The Three Theban Plays
ISBN 9780140444254 | $12.00 |

Antigone defending her integrity and ideals to the death, Oedipus questing for his identity and achieving immortality—these heroic figures have moved playgoers and readers since the fifth century BC.

Towering over the rest of Greek tragedy, these three plays are among the most enduring and timeless dramas ever written. Robert Fagles' translation conveys all of Sophocles' lucidity and power: the cut and thrust of his dialogue, his ironic edge, the surge and majesty of his choruses and, above all, the agonies and triumphs of his characters.

Sarah also sent us these thoughts about why Sophocles' book is essential...

Why It's a Classic:
Oedipus Rex is a classic because it incorporates almost all of the big, important themes found in great literature: love, revenge, family, anger, fate, and freewill.

What It Influenced:
Even though this notable play by Sophocles was part of the Greek tragedy theater tradition, the actual myth of Oedipus first appeared in Homer's early epic works. The tradition of Greek theater influenced many future plays and novels in countless ways, from the style of the stage and theater to the style of narration. Also, and perhaps more famously, Freud borrowed the title to name his theory of the Oedipus Complex, his theory that describes how boys grow up wanting to get rid of their fathers and marry their mothers. Sophocles also wrote a play about Electra, and Freud created the Electra Complex to describe females who want to take over their mother's roles and marry their fathers.

Another Great Book By This Author:

Contemporary Example of the Theme/Story:
The theme of the tragic hero comes up in many modern plays and books. In movies, many romantic comedies star a tragic hero who ends up redeeming himself in the end. In addition, modern dramas often toy with the idea of a good person fated to a bad end in some way or another.

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