Oedipus and Arthur MsWLZ
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    Oedipus and Arthur MsWLZ Oedipus and Arthur MsWLZ Presentation Transcript

    • ENOUGH OEDIPUS? • I discussed Oedipus in prior lessons but it is necessary to keep referring to him. I do want to mention, as well, that the references I have made to his myth are drawn from Sophocles‟ play. • And so, on to Arthur! • In other lessons, I said that Arthur was a Welsh Celt. The best known tales of his kingship are from Geoffrey of Monmouth‟s The History of the Kings of Britain (circa 1136), Sir Thomas Malory‟s Le Morte d'Arthur, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson‟s Idylls of the King. However, Arthur‟s tale is much older and he is mentioned in the Welsh tales of The Mabinogion, pre-Christian Celtic myth. These latter tales would have been told orally before being written down circa 1060-1200 CE. • As with the older myths we have examined, Arthur has variant tales; the best known are filtered through Christian scribes and storytellers who made the Celtic Arthur into a Christian King of Briton. He could have very well been a historical figure, but his life and deeds are shrouded by time.
    • A KING IS A KING IS A KING IS A KING . . . • Although Oedipus and Arthur are removed from each other by a couple of thousand years, they are much closer than casual reader might suspect. • Both are kings, of course, but they are both “Corn Kings,” mortals who give their lives or sacrifice some part of themselves in order to benefit their constituents. In fact, the fertility of the land is bound to the well-being of the king and when he suffers, the land becomes infertile. “Corn,” in this case, does not refer to specifically maize, but grain in general: no fertility = no grain, no crops, and people go hungry. • Arthur is also a Fisher King, but that is another myth/legend and we will not go into this due to time constraints! However, Fisher Kings were keepers of the grail. The 1991 movie The Fisher King is based on this theme—if you have a chance, watch it!
    • • For our purposes, it is Arthur‟s archetypal attributes and his relationsip to Oedipus that are the important issues. Oedipus and Arthur share some aspects with other heroes, but they also share some aspects that are not so widely disseminated. • Common aspects with other heroes: • 1. Special child—Oedipus‟s “special” attribute, however was not positive! He was destined for greatness, but also for sorrow. • 2. Was not raised by biological parents; Oedipus and Arthur are not of godly descent, but both are of kingly descent. • 3. Fate plays an important role in their lives. • 4. Arthur has sidekicks, but Oedipus does not. • 5. Tragic flaw. • 6. Quest. • Oedipus and Arthur have things in common, though, that other heroes we have examined do not share.
    • As in the myth of Perseus, Arthur receives magical or supernatural gifts to help him. Like Theseus, Arthur proves his rightful lineage via a sword and a rock.
    • A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME • I discussed the similarities of the two kings in videos: here, I want to elaborate on some of them— particularly, why their kingdoms fell into plague and pestilence. • In Sophocles tales, the cause of Thebes‟ blight is obvious to the readers: we are privy to Oedipus‟ past and present. We know that he has killed his father and married his mother. Oedipus saved by the shepherd
    • • As the action in the tale progresses, Jocasta realizes that the prophecy has come to be; Tiresias has known it from the beginning. They both caution Oedipus to withdraw from his quest, but he continues. • But just as Oedipus was fated to live, fated to kill his father, fated to defeat the sphinx,, and fated to marry his mother, he is also fated to continue his quest. • He is also dedicated to ending the plight of his people; this cannot be accomplished if the evil existing with the kingdom is not recognized and abolished. His actions are a combination of hubris (resisting advice from Tiresias) to selflessness (wanting to end the blight). The question remains thaf IF he had known it would lead to his downfall, would he had continued? Oedipus and the Sphinx
    • • It is necessary for Oedipus to make restitution for his actions—it does not matter if he committed them knowingly or not. • The only way that this can be done is to offer a sacrifice; in this case, Oedipus doe not kill himself, but blinks himself with Jocasta‟s brooches. He must then wander, blind and aimless. • Oedipus‟ blindness is a physical and symbolic manifestation of his prior state of ignorance and metaphorical blindness; now that he clearly sees his transgressions, it is more than he can bear.
    • CORN KINGS • Oedipus is a Corn King: sometimes a mortal king (but can be a deity) whose well-being is intimately entwined with the land. When the king is healthy and guiltless, the land is fertile and productive. If/when the king is unhealthy and riddled with evil (for lack of a better word—”evil” is usually defined by intent, and neither Oedipus or Arthur knowingly committed incest), the land and the people suffer. • We see these same aspects in the myths of Inanna, Ishtar, and Persephone—when these goddesses are in the underworld, the land is infertile. Prometheus is also a type of Corn King; he willingly gives himself in sacrifice to give fire to his offspring, men (women came later).
    • THE QUEST • Both Oedipus and Arthur embark on a quest to discover the sources of the blights on their lands. Oedipus seeks knowledge and Arthur seeks the Grail—he seeks it by proxy via his knights, but he institutes the quest. Oedipus also relies on others to help him, i.e. Tiresias. • Oedipus‟ quest comes to fruition when he finds that he did, indeed, commit the acts foretold before his birth. The only way to end plight of Thebes is for him to propitiate his “sin.” It is ironic that he blinds himself with implements belonging to his mother/wife instead of harming himself with a sword. • His wandering is, in essence and reality, banishment from his people and country—the people whom he sought to help. He is also to be denied proper burial, which means that his soul cannot reach Hades, which, in turn, means he will change from a wandering physical entity to a lost, wandering soul.
    • ARTHUR • Arthur‟s quest is, of course, to find the Grail; this will restore balance to the kingdom. (Note: the grail is not necessarily the cup from Jesus last supper: it could be a plate or dish.) However, matters are not so simple: there must still be a sacrifice. • Like Oedipus, one of Arthur‟s misdoings was to conceive a child with a cloes family member; his half-sister, Morgana. It does not matter if he were tricked or not: the “sin” was still committed. • But again, matters are not so simple! Arthur‟s actions have allowed sin to enter his kingdom in other ways, and though the evidence is there, Arthur cannot (or refuses) to see it. • Tennyson‟s Idylls of the King is rife with symbolism, and one story is often an analogy for other “things” also occurring.
    • THROUGH THE EYES OF A FOOL • Oedipus has a wise man, Tiresias, give him counsel; in Idylls, it is a fool who most clearly sees what is going on. The concept of a wise fool is also seen in King Lear, but that is altogether another tale! But before the fool, Dagonet, makes some comments, there is already the understanding that matters have gone downhill. In the section “The Last Tournament,” the knights are gathered: • And most of these were mute, some angered, one Murmuring, 'All courtesy is dead,' and one, 'The glory of our Round Table is no more.„ • (Sorry, there are no line numbers on the versions I found, so I cannot guide you to the specific spots for quotes.)
    • • Dagonet, the fool or jester, loves Arthur, but is not blind to his faults or of the nefarious deeds going on in the kingdom. • In “The Last Tournament,” Dagonet speaks to Tristan. Although the romance of Tristan and Isolde is highly romanticized, in Tennyson‟s account of Arthurian legend, their love is forbidden because Isolde is married to King Mark; the affair between her and Tristan is adultery. Dagonet‟s words about the affair apply not only to Tristan, but also to Guinevere's affair with Lancelot. • Arthur has turned a blind eye to both of the affairs.
    • • And little Dagonet on the morrow morn, High over all the yellowing Autumn-tide, Danced like a withered leaf before the hall. • Then Tristram saying, 'Why skip ye so, Sir Fool?' Wheeled round on either heel, Dagonet replied, 'Belike for lack of wiser company; Or being fool, and seeing too much wit Makes the world rotten, why, belike I skip To know myself the wisest knight of all.' In this passage, Dagonet sets himself up as the “wisest knight” because he is cognizant of what is happening in the kingdom.
    • • • [Dagonet] Made answer, 'I had liefer twenty years Skip to the broken music of my brains Than any broken music thou canst make.' Then Tristram, waiting for the quip to come, 'Good now, what music have I broken, fool?' And little Dagonet, skipping, 'Arthur, the King's; For when thou playest that air with Queen Isolt, Thou makest broken music with thy bride, Her daintier namesake down in Brittany— And so thou breakest Arthur's music too.' 'Save for that broken music in thy brains, [. . .] • Tristan questions the fool and Dagonet makes it known that he aware of Tristan‟s affair. He compares it with “broken music”: the land and the people lack harmony. Even worse, because Arthur says or does nothing, he is out of sync.
    • • • And Dagonet answered, 'Ay, and when the land Was freed, and the Queen false, ye set yourself To babble about him, all to show your wit— And whether he were King by courtesy, Or King by right—and so went harping down The black king's highway, got so far, and grew So witty that ye played at ducks and drakes With Arthur's vows on the great lake of fire. [. . .] And then we skip.' 'Lo, fool,' he [Tristan] said, 'ye talk Fool's treason: is the King thy brother fool?' Then little Dagonet clapt his hands and shrilled, 'Ay, ay, my brother fool, the king of fools! Conceits himself as God that he can make Figs out of thistles, silk from bristles, milk From burning spurge, honey from hornet-combs, And men from beasts—Long live the king of fools!' • In these passages, Dagonet states that Guinivere is “false,” that Arthur is hubristic, thinking himself as “God.” Arthur has become the “king of fools.
    • • At this point, Arthur‟s realization of the corruption in the kingdom is not enough; as in the tale of Oedipus, there must be a sacrifice made so that the land can right itself. • As the king, Arthur is the sacrifice; the shedding of his blood will rejuvenate the land and order can be restored. • Fate is kinder to Arthur than it is to Oedipus: Arthur is dealt a mortal blow by his son, Mordred, but is subsequently carried away to Avalon. • Arthur is a Christlike figure who dies for the good of his people but who also has the promise of resurrection; Oedipus has no such promise.
    • AND SO ON . . . • I discuss Luke and Anakin Skywalker in a video, but the tales of Oedipus and Arthur are represented in other modern tales, as well; the more traditional quest of the hero is almost omnipresent. • I do want to emphasize a commonality between Oedipus, Arthur, and the Skywalkers, though: these tales all contatin a battle between father and son. In Perseus‟ tale, there is not a father/son conflict, but there is a grandfather/grandson conflict. In myth (especially Greek), we consistently see these types of conflicts: Kronos kills Uranus and Zeus kills Kronos. Zeus‟ forestalls being overthrown by eating Metis, but Apollo makes a thwarted attempt to overcome Zeus. I am not going to into the “reason” for this myth, but I am going to ask you to theorize on the why of its existence! • Enough. I have more to say, but I am going to stop. 
    • WORKS CITED • Tennyson, Alfred. Idylls of the King. Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg. n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2013. <http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/610>.