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Plays

Rhesos

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the dark of night, intrigues and treachery flourish beneath the walls of the besieged Troy. A chorus of sentries stands guard while spies and heroes scheme to turn the tides of war in their favour. In Rhesos, Euripides portrays the reality of war, in which there is no place for honour.

Out of around a hundred plays by Euripides, Rhesos is one of nineteen that survive. Its place in the Euripides canon has been debated, with some scholars ascribing it to an unknown fourth-century dramatist.

Nonetheless, as editor J. Michael Walton writes, 'there is an inventiveness and a capacity for surprise in Rhesos that seems wholly in keeping with Euripides' dramatic and theatrical technique elsewhere. The establishing of the play as taking place at night is a conceit which was taken ip in the Chinese theatre and exploited comically by Peter Shaffer in his immaculate one-act play, Black Comedy. In Rhesos, all the confusion of sentry duty, the intrigue of spies and intruders, disguises and deceptions, are crammed into a single night when the fortunes of war turn against the Trojans by a mixture of devious behaviour and sheer bad luck. Events happen as they do because so many of the characters are figuratively, as well as literally, in the dark. It is a brilliant dramatic device and brilliantly exploited.'

Seven Against Thebes

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the wake of Oedipus's exile, the cursed sons of his incestuous marriage, Eteocles and Polynices vow to avoid further bloodshed by ruling Thebes in alternate years. However, when the Eteocles refuses to step down after the first year of the arrangement, Polynices raises an army led by seven Argive champions to retake Thebes by force.

Fearing the invaders, and feeling the fear of his people, Eteocles vows to fight Polynices man to man for the future of the city. Instead, they kill one another in battle beneath the seventh gate of the city, leading directly to the dilemma of their sister, Antigone, and her ultimate demise.

Seven Against Thebes, which forms part of Aeschylus's tragic Theban cycle, is brilliantly translated by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish.

Translator's copyright © by Volatic Limited and Kenneth McLeish 1991

Suppliants (Aeschylus)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Suppliants tells the story of the Danaids, the fifty daughters of Danaus, who seemed destined for a dynastic marriage to their cousins, the fifty sons of Danaus's brother Aegyptus. However, when warned by the gods that his brother plans to murder him and his daughters, Danaus flees with the Danaids to Argos, where he is taken in by the King of Argos.

Aegyptus challenges the people of Argos to give up their refugees, but the King and his people refuse, allowing the Danaids sanctuary.

Possibly part of a tetralogy based on the myth of the Danaids, Suppliants is translated and introduced by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish.

Suppliants (Euripides)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The haunting spectre of unburied corpses begins the action of Euripides' Suppliants. Aithra, mother of the king of Athens, Theseus, pleads with her son to exhort Thebes to release the bodies of the sons of Athens killed in Thebes, hired by Polyneikes to fight in the post-Oedipal era of Theban civil war. Theseus agrees to the request, but only after ascertaining that it is the democratic will of the people of Athens that he should make this plea to the Thebans.

The Thebans, for their part, refuse, mocking Athenian democratic principles along the way. A battle between the two cities erupts; this time, however, Theseus fights only to gain that which his mandate had sought: the return of the bodies for their holy rites.

In the play, as J. Michael Walton writes, 'the level of the debate quickly rises to a dual consideration of the anture of war and the relative values of differing poltical systems. This is not Theseus' squabble, as he is quick to point out. He is soon persuaded that it is his buisiness. The rights and wrongs of interferences into the behaviour of other countries on moral grounds is a debate which has proved open-ended. All the deliberations of the United Nations Security Council have resulted only in guidelines to which every example seems to offer special pleading.'

Suppliants forms the last episode in the saga of the house of Oedipus.

video Theban Plays: Antigone (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

The story of one sister’s loyalty to both her brothers, regardless of their acts or opposing political beliefs, Antigone is one of the most consistently popular plays in the history of drama. This translation, by Don Taylor, was commissioned by the BBC, and was first broadcast in autumn, 1986.

Credits:

Director: Don Taylor; Producer: Louis Marks; Playwright: Sophocles; Translator: Don Taylor; Composer: Derek Bourgeois; Conductor: Derek Bourgeois; Advisor: Geoffrey Lewis (on classical matters).

Cast: Patrick Barr: Theban Elder (Chorus), Rosalie: Crutchley Euridice: Paul Daneman: Theban Elder (Chorus), Donald Eccles: Theban Elder (Chorus), Robert Eddison: Theban Elder (Chorus) John Gielgud: Teiresias, Patrick Godfrey: Theban Elder (Chorus) Mike Gwilym: Haemon, Bernard Hill: Messenger, Ewan Hooper: Theban Elder (Chorus), Peter Jeffrey: Theban Elder (Chorus) Noel Johnson: Theban Elder (Chorus). Robert Lang: Theban Elder (Chorus), John Ringham: Theban Elder (Chorus), Paul Russell: Boy, Tony Selby: Soldier, John Shrapnel: Creon, Juliet Stevenson: Antigone, Gwen Taylor: Ismene, Frederick Treves: Theban Elder (Chorus).

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Theban Plays: Oedipus At Colonus (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Sophocles' Theban plays – Oedipus Tyrannos, Oedipus at Colonos and Antigone – stand at the fountainhead of world drama; they tell the story of Oedipus, Jocasta and Antigone, and the ancient Greek theme of power, both mortal and godlike is brought to the fore with stunning vitality. Oedipus at Colonos is the middle play in the trilogy. In the aftermath of the events in Thebes, the blinded Oedipus is led to Colonos by his daughter Antigone and his tragic fate is completed.

Credits:

Director: Don Taylor; Producer: Louis Marks. Starring: Michael Pennington, John Gielgud, Cyril Cusack, Claire Bloom, Anthony Quayle.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Theban Plays: Oedipus The King (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

This Greek tragedy tells the story of Oedipus, King of Thebes and husband of Jocasta. When the discovery is made that he is the son of the same Jocasta and of the previous king Laius (whom he has unwittingly murdered), Oedipus blinds himself and Jocasta commits suicide.

Credits:

Director: Don Taylor; Producer: Louis Marks; Playwright: Sophocles; Translator: Don Taylor, Composer: Derek Bourgeois; Conductor: Derek Bourgeois; Advisor: Geoffrey Lewis.

Cast: Claire Bloom: Jocasta, Michael Byrne: Theban Senator, Ernest Clark: Theban Senator, David Collings, Theban Senator, Cyril Cusack: Priest, Donald Eccles: Theban Senator, Robert Eddison: Theban Senator, John Gielgud: Teiresias, Edward Hardwicke: Theban Senator, Denys Hawthorne: Theban Senator, Kelly Huntley: Ismene, Noel Johnson: Theban Senator, Gerard Murphy: Messenger, Michael Pennington: Oedipus, Norman Rodway: Corinthian Messenger, Clifford Rose: Theban Senator, Alan Rowe: Theban Senator, Lincoln Saunders: Teiresias’ Boy, Cassie Shilling: Antigone, John Shrapnel: Creon, Nigel Stock: Theban Senator, David Waller: Shepherd, John Woodnutt: Theban Senator

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

Women in Power

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Women in Power tells the story of a group of women, tired (just like their author) of the incompetent politicians in the demos. Convinced they could do a much better job than their male counterparts, they inveigle themselves into the council and, with their leader Praxagora at the helm, succeed in signing over working powers from the men to the women, powers they use to institute a proto-socialist state.

A suitable companion piece to the slightly lest chaste Lysistrata, Women in Power is as cynical about the status quo as it is romantic about the possibility for change. This translation is by the eminently talented Kenneth McLeish.