Oedipus the KingBy: Sophocles Presented by: Sarah Roman Rebecca Suzan Kaitlyn Wojtowicz
All About Sophocles • Lived from 496 to 406 BC. • Second Theban playwright. • Wrote 123 plays. • Most awarded playwright in Athens for a span of fifty years. • Competed in thirty drama competitions including the Dionysia where he won first place eighteen times. • Developed drama by adding a third character.
The First Production of Oedipus • The Oedipus Cycle is the most famous set of Sophocles plays. • First performed in 429 BC. • The Dionysia was a contest among the dramatists. • Three dramatists on three successive days presented their plays.
In a Time of Myth and Legend • A prophecy predicted that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother so when his was born, he was sent away to die. A shepherd spared his life and he was raised in Corinth, unaware of the prophecy. When a drunken party guest revealed the prophecy, Oedipus went to Apollo’s oracle at Delphi to learn the truth. After vowing never to return to Corinth for fear of fulfilling the prophecy, he set off traveling. During his travels, Oedipus is run off the road and killed the offending men which, the audience later learns, included his real father. Then, Oedipus encountered the Sphinx who is guarded the city of Thebes. He solved the Sphinx’s riddle and was appointed ruler of Thebes, marrying its widowed queen, his birth mother. Oedipus unknowingly fulfilled the oracle’s prophecy. Sophocles’ play focuses on the events which lead to Oedipus’s discovery of the truth. • The myth was well-known by the time Sophocles wrote his play. However, instead of focusing on Oedipus’s unthinkable actions, Sophocles focuses on the events which lead to Oedipus’s discovery of the truth. • The myth has enormous psychological implications which influenced a well-known piece of modern psychological theory – Freud’s Oedipus complex • Themes that can be derived from the myth include the fate vs. free will argument and man’s eternal struggle to find truth.
Aristotelian Character and Tragic Error • “It is possible for the action to be performed, but for the agents to do the terrible deed in ignorance and only then to realize the connection as in Sophocles’ Oedipus” (Poetics 23). • The goodness of the character is based on his choices • The character’s change to bad fortune occurs because of an error • Oedipus’s error is his curiosity with his propensity for violence as a contributing flaw
Reversal and Recognition • Reversal: The plot reversal within Oedipus when Tiresias is summoned to the palace. He tells Oedipus and Creon that the plague in the kingdom will only end when Laius’s murderer is found. This prompts Oedipus to vehemently seek out Laius’s killer. • Recognition: The recognition however does not occur until much later in the play. Oedipus recognizes that he has killed his father, Laius, and consummated the marriage with his mother, Jocasta, when the shepherd describes how Oedipus was given to him as an infant to be killed.
The Chorus – Bridging the Gap Explains things to the audience - Acts as an intermediary Expresses want for calm and stability • The chorus asks Oedipus not to banish Creon for fear of curse on the city Offers false sense of closure • Not one of the main characters yet has the last lines of the play Chorus universalizes the message by speaking directly to the audience.
Important Speeches • “Oh my children, the new blood of ancient Thebes, why are you here? Huddling at my altar, praying before me, your branches wound in wool. Our city reeks with the smoke of burning incense, rings with cries for the Healer and wailing for the dead. I thought it wrong, my children, to hear the truth from others, messengers. Here I am myself- you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus.” (Oedipus, p. 160, 1-9). • “O God – all come true, all burst to light! O light – now let me look my last on you! I stand revealed at last – cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands” (Oedipus, p. 232, 1305-1310) • “People of Thebes, my countrymen, look on Oedipus. He solved the famous riddle with his brilliance, he rose to power, a man beyond all power. Who could behold his greatness without envy? Now what a black sea of terror has overwhelmed him. Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day, count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.” (Chorus, p. 251, 1678-1684)
The Big Questions • Are Oedipus’s decisions driven by fate, or does he have free will? • There are inconsistencies between the story of Laius’s murder that Jocasta tells, and the one Oedipus describes. What are your thoughts on this, is it the same murder? • Is Sophocles’ use of language integral to the play? Would the audience feel the tragic effect as much if allusions to blindness not been incorporated all the way until his recognition?