The Burial at Thebes, by Seamus Heaney.
This is an adaption of a Sophocles play about Antigone. It’s only a short book, and can be read pretty darn quickly! It is a book on my reading list for my OU English degree but thought I’d get a head start.
The general themes are based around loyalty: including service to the gods, as well as your ruler. There are several issues raised in the play around family, honouring the dead, whether you should put God first or the law of the land… and so on. I’m not a religious person myself, but I can identify with the desperation of wanting to respect the dead. Antigone wants to uphold the doctrine of her teachings about God and the afterlife, and to ensure that her brother gets a proper burial. She goes against the king’s orders to leave the corpse out and not observe the proper rituals and, as a result, is punished.
Antigone was betrothed to the king’s son, but the king was too stubborn and arrogant to listen to any advice offered until it was too late. The sorrows he is forced to endure is of his own making, and he regrets his rash actions. He believes the gods had their revenge on him.
For such a short work, a lot of pertinent issues are covered. It really gets the brain ticking over as to how you, yourself, would act if put in that situation. Would you be brave enough to risk death to honour the deceased? Would you be prepared to stand against a ruler who has the power to decide what will happen to you? If you choose to follow your ruler, are you risking the wrath of your god by not following their laws? Or what of the dead, how will they receive you if you disrespect them?