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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A student friendly edition of the paradigmatic Greek tragedy
"Oedipus Rex" is not only the most read Greek tragedy, it is also the most misread. The play's reputation exists in part because it is presented as the paradigmatic example of the Greek tragedy by no less an authority than Aristotle in his "Poetics." No doubt this reputation played a part it making it one of the relatively few plays by Sophocles that has been preserved...
Published on December 5, 2005 by Lawrance M. Bernabo

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle version!
Don't buy the Kindle version! The publisher has not converted it to text. Rather, the pages have been scanned to a PDF document. The text cannot be increased or decreased in size. The annotations are not on the same page as the text but, rather, interspersed at random intervals. Most annotations are unreadable. It's impossible to read. Don't waste your money.
Published on July 11, 2011 by Lover of Philosophy


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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A student friendly edition of the paradigmatic Greek tragedy, December 5, 2005
By 
This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
"Oedipus Rex" is not only the most read Greek tragedy, it is also the most misread. The play's reputation exists in part because it is presented as the paradigmatic example of the Greek tragedy by no less an authority than Aristotle in his "Poetics." No doubt this reputation played a part it making it one of the relatively few plays by Sophocles that has been preserved from ancient times. Whenever I have taught the Greek tragedies in various classes my students almost always find in the play the best examples of Aristotle's key concepts of harmartia ("tragic error of judgment"), anagnorisis ("recognition"), peripeteia ("reversal"), catharsis, etc. Still, there is the fact that because even those who do not know the play know the story about the man who killed his father and married his mother, "Oedipus Rex" is usually misread by students. Because they know the curse they miss something very important: the curse that the oracle at Delphi tells Oedipus (ln. 752-57) is not the same curse that was told to his parents (ln. 676-78).

The only reference to Oedipus by name in Homer appears in the "Iliad" (Book 23, ln 756) where it says that the king of Thebes died in battle, which suggests he was not blind. At some point in between the time of Homer and when Sophocles wrote this play, the tradition became that Oedipus blinded himself (Ismene refers to it in "Antigone," ln 37-39, which was written 15 years earlier but may have been edited later to conform with the more famous work). Sophocles could be playing with the legend again by having the prophecy change because this way there is an explanation for the sin of incest being part of the prophecy: it is added when Jocasta tries to thwart destiny and she herself gives the baby Oedipus over to the huntsman to be killed. Consequently, in the view of Sophocles at least, the incest is a punishment for the actions of Jocasta and not something that the innocent babe Oedipus faced from the moment of his birth.

Anyhow, there is no need for me to convince you that "Oedipus Rex" (a.k.a. "Oedipus the King" and "Oedipus Tyrannos") is a great play and the epitome of the Greek tragedy. So let me instead recommend this Literary Touchstone Edition with it use of sidebar notes to explain terms, concepts and mythological references. Once upon a time it seemed like only Shakespeare got this treatment, so it is nice to see Sophocles being treated the same. Before you read the play there are some Reading Points for Sharper Interest, which give readers some key things to consider whether they are reading the play for the first time or the twentieth. A list of Dramatis Personae is provided before the play and a look at the Mythological Background follows, although reading that latter one first as well could be quite useful.

Actually, a lot of what is included in this book would be useful reading before rather than after. The rest of this volume is devoted to brief considerations of the Origins of Greek Drama, Tragedy and the City (looking at the importance of these dramas to the Athenians), Conventions of Greek Drama, and Aristotle's Influence on Our Understanding of Tragedy. If anything, depending on how much you already know about such things, these sections may be too brief. But they do provide some key concepts for better understanding "Oedipus Rex." Even teachers who cannot get classroom sets of this edition to give their students to read can take advantage of what they find here to benefit their students.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle version!, July 11, 2011
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Don't buy the Kindle version! The publisher has not converted it to text. Rather, the pages have been scanned to a PDF document. The text cannot be increased or decreased in size. The annotations are not on the same page as the text but, rather, interspersed at random intervals. Most annotations are unreadable. It's impossible to read. Don't waste your money.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Immortal Play, Perhaps Not the Best Edition, March 7, 2010
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This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
Oedipus Rex has been an immortal world literature classic for nearly 2,500 years. Long considered the greatest Greek tragedy, it was hailed by Aristotle as the tragedy par excellence, and in the millennium plus since only Shakespeare's greatest work has even approached it. It remains a model of what tragedy should be; deftly plotted and perfectly executed, it has a sympathetic protagonist, a crushing climax, sublime poetry, and a wealth of meaningful themes. The play remains on the very short list of incomparably and undeniably great world literature masterpieces - one of the six or so best works ever. It is essential reading for everyone.

Perhaps the aspect that has always spoken most strongly is the character of Oedipus. The archetypal tragic hero, He is one of literature's most thoroughly sympathetic personages. Whatever his faults, he is far more sinned against than sinning; his rise from humble background to king is matched only by his even more awe-inspiring fall. Arrogant, haughty, and somewhat impulsive, he has distinct flaws, but they only make him more human; we feel for him because we see his profound humanity. However ostensibly different from us, he has the indisputable human core necessary for a truly moving character. His downfall's pathos is near-unbearable; it is hard to see a man so truly broken and heavily suffering. The play is valuable for showing the nadir to which people can sink, bringing out life's inherent tragedy with incredible force and emotion.

The story itself is also key. The original audience knew the Oedipus story well, and it has continued to be so famous that most will know a lot before reading, but Sophocles portrays it with such skillful mastery that it affected Athenians with mesmerizing power and continues to do so. A tighter plot or more perfect execution could not be conceived; no one has ever made better use of foreshadowing or dramatic irony, and the breathtaking climax has rarely even been approached. The story is put together with almost mathematical precision, and the close is simply devastating. The totality of bitterly ironic events that comes down on Oedipus is so crushingly malevolent that it shows the absolute worst that can happen to a person. For this reason among many others, the play remains the consummate tragedy.

The work's lasting value may be due primarily to its extraordinary dramatization of numerous weighty themes. All Greek tragedies were broadly philosophical in a way later plays - to say nothing of current ones - rarely are, but this is again the top example. It most famously deals with fate and has indeed never been matched for showing fatalism's dark possibility and potentially fatal consequences. However, this has also been exaggerated, because a close reading clearly shows that Oedipus himself inadvertently caused his downfall; this is what makes him a tragic hero. Denying the conventional depiction may seem strange, but it after all makes him more relatable. As far as we know, we are not victims of venomous fate but are fragile beings suffering from limitations we are unable to overcome. The play in any case has other important themes: the creation and enforcement of taboos, questions of political succession and family relations, pride vs. humility, etc. That Sophocles was able to do all this in a work of less than two thousand lines - not even half of Hamlet - is a testament both to his genius and to ancient Greek art's essential concision.

There are few works for which reviews are more superfluous; the real question is what translation to get. Robert Fagles' is undoubtedly the best for current readers. It is not that prior ones are inaccurate, but inevitable language changes have made them ever less readable; some may think them more stately, but they lack Fagles' flow and readability. All one need do is compare his rendering of the famous closing speech to prior ones; his is so much more immediate yet also more poetic. Dedicated Greekless readers will of course want several, but neophytes should start with Fagles, the only version most will ever need.

Translation aside, the question of what edition to get is also important. The play is well worth reading on its own, but many versions pair it with Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles' other two Theban plays. The former is nearly as great as Oedipus Rex, and the latter has great merit, meaning the trilogy is ideally bought complete. Standalones are hard to justify unless one wants a deluxe edition with Greek text, extensive criticism, or some other bonus, but the important thing is of course to read the play in some form.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfaction, January 4, 2007
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J. Colgan (California, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
This product is extremely helpful when reading Oedipus. It is a fantastic version of the play.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Different cover with bleeding man, January 15, 2014
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This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
In case anyone would like to know I got this book and the cover is totally different from what is offered and is not appropriate for a kid to take to high school. It has a photorealistic man on the front with blood coming down one side of his face and dripping down his body. I had to return it and try to find another one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stark Tragedy, Nice Annotations, January 3, 2010
This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
Sophocles ancient classic engrips and horrifies the reader with a tragic tale of fate and horror. Young Oedipus is destined to murder his father and marry his mother. So it is written. Eager to avoid the fickle hand of fate, his parents send young Oedipus away at early age to evade the inevitable, which of course, proves unavoidable. In addition to tragedy, this stunning classic from Ancient Greece asks that age-old question, "who am I?" This version provides useful annotations for readers. It gives away the ending, but how many first-timers don't already know it? We read this play freshman year in high school and struggled with certain parts, although naturally we grasped the ideas of fate, tragedy, and incest. A classic perhaps not for the faint-of-heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Let's give away the ending on the back of the book!, September 29, 2009
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awakenonthefloor (Liverpool, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
I found this version of the play to be too cumbersome in its language. I had previously read Robert Fitzgerald's translation, which was marvelous and easy to understand. The argument between Oedipus and Teirisias, for example, clearly shows the anger, frustration, and weariness felt by the characters. In this Literary Touchstone edition, the emotion is drained from the argument, and each character ends up sounding like a lawyer.

Although I did find the annotations on the sides of the page helpful when explaining the references to the Greek gods, I found them frustrating when they would reference things that would not happen for another twenty or thirty pages. It seems that the editors wrote the annotaions assuming the reader was already familiar with the play.

The deal-breaker for me, however, was the fact that the play is not only summarized on the back cover, but specific details to the plot are revealed, robbing the story of any surprise at all for the first-time reader.

For those thinking of purchasing this book, I would urge you to take a look at the Fitzgerald version. Amazon lets you browse the pages of both, and I think you'll find the translation of the Fitzgerald more easy to understand, and more suspenseful in its delivery: http://www.amazon.com/Sophocles-Oedipus-Cycle-Colonus-Antigone/dp/015602764X/ref=pd_cp_b_3
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, July 9, 2014
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Great book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Let it Be Spoiled, June 1, 2014
It was surprisingly understandable and enjoyable. It would've been even better if my English teacher hadn't spoiled the plot. It was worth a read through, if only to understand the references made to it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Arrived in terrible condition!, May 23, 2014
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This review is from: Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition (Paperback)
The book arrived in terrible condition! It was only the cheap price that I decided to keep it instead of sending it back.
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Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition
Oedipus Rex - Literary Touchstone Edition by Sophocles (Paperback - June 1, 2005)
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