By Sophocles, with introduction, translation, and essay by Ruby Blondell

Antigone, one of the very few classical Greek tragedies that we have left, is better studied than it is merely read. The text is filled throughout with thematic lines that inform the reader about various aspects of Ancient Greek life such as gender roles and the respective positions of law and religion in society, and so it serves as a informative text for scholars of history wishing to study the time period.

It also provides insight into the literary tradition; the idea of a tragic hero is old news to modern readers, but it is precisely because of works like this one that we have such a concept. Though we have lost some of the theatrical norms of the time, like the practice of a dancing and singing chorus and the tradition of very few speaking characters on stage at a time, the whole of modern literary practice has its foundation in texts such as these, and so much can be learned from the text and possibilities of staging.

As a story, the plot probably is not particularly attractive to modern readers. The subtleties of Greek language, which contained a multitude of phrases and ideas not found in English, are quite literally lost in translation, causing the play to no longer carry the full tragic weight that it undoubtedly originally had. Nevertheless, this text is stock full of lessons from the past, and Blondell’s introduction, essay, and translation notes make those lessons accessible to all.