Sophocles and an introduction to oedipus rex

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Introduces legend behind Oedipus, symbolism, irony, and use of the chorus

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Sophocles and an introduction to oedipus rex

  1. 1. Sophocles and an Introduction to Oedipus Rex Karen Stitely October 26, 2010 Ancient World
  2. 2. Basic Life info <ul><li>Sophocles was born 496 BC – died 406 BC </li></ul><ul><li>Born into a wealthy family </li></ul><ul><li>Served as a general and a priest during his lifetime </li></ul><ul><li>Fathered 2 sons, one whom went on to become a playwright </li></ul><ul><li>Worshipped as a hero after his death </li></ul>
  3. 3. Major Tragedy Writers <ul><li>Sophocles was a younger contemporary of Aeschylus, and an older contemporary of Euripedes. These 3 are the men responsible for Greek Tragedy! </li></ul><ul><li>If Aeschylus changed everything by putting a second actor on stage, Sophocles - saw and raised him by adding a third. This enabled playwrights to create even more complex situations. </li></ul><ul><li>Increased the chorus size from 12 to 15 people </li></ul><ul><li>Sophocles was the first to use scene painting </li></ul>
  4. 4. Sophocles in detail <ul><li>Sophocles' work is considered the pinnacle of Greek tragedy. In his ninety-year lifespan he witnessed the rise and fall of the Athenian Golden Age. </li></ul><ul><li>Sophocles was the son of a wealthy manufacturer. He grew up during the Persian Wars, and was chosen to participate in the victory celebrations for the Greek naval victory at Salamis in 480 BCE, an honor that suggests that the young Sophocles was particularly talented and handsome. </li></ul><ul><li>He is thought to have performed some of the roles in his early plays, but was unable to continue as an actor due to problems with his voice. </li></ul><ul><li>Sophocles was popular in Athens, and, perhaps as a result of the patriotism he developed as a young man, remained in Athens throughout his life despite multiple summons from local rulers to visit other cities and regions. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Sophocles considered the greatest of the Greek Tragedians <ul><li>Sophocles wrote prolifically, penning 123 plays, however, all but seven are lost. Of the great tragedians, Sophocles had the best luck at the Dionysia. He won 24 times out of around 30 tries, and placed second in the ones that he didn't win. Parts of hundreds of plays by Sophocles have been found </li></ul>
  6. 6. Major Works <ul><li>Ajax </li></ul><ul><li>Antigone (442bc) </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus the King (sometime between 430-411 bc) </li></ul><ul><li>Philoctetes (409 BC) </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus at Colonus (produced after his death in 406BC) </li></ul><ul><li>Electra </li></ul><ul><li>Trachiniae </li></ul>
  7. 7. The 3 Oedipus Plays <ul><li>Although not written as a cycle, and not necessary to read one to understand the others, the Oedipus plays are: </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King) Oedipus at Colonus </li></ul><ul><li>Antigone </li></ul><ul><li>Antigone was actually written first </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Legend of Oedipus <ul><li>The stories used to create the plays were based on myths that had been passed down from generations. When the audience came to see a play, the playwright did not need to spend much time giving exposition – if given the characters and where the play begins in the folk tale, the audience would know what was going on </li></ul>
  9. 9. Thanks Dad! Lord of Thebes, do not sow a furrow of children against the will of the gods; for if you beget a son, that child will kill you, and all your house shall wade through blood.&quot; (The Oracle of Delphi to Laius 1. Euripides, Phoenician Women 20). <ul><li>Laïus became king of Thebes, after the death of Amphion and Zethus. He married Jocasta, daughter of Menoeceus and sister of Creon. </li></ul><ul><li>Laius had at one time visited Pelops, king of Pisa, as a guest. Pelops had an illegitmate son, named Chrysippus, by a nymph named Astyoche. Because of Chrysippus' beauty, Laius fell in love with the boy. When Laius was training Chrysippus in driving the chariot, he abducted the boy and raped him. his sword. Chrysippus kills himself. Pelops laid a curse upon Laius. The gods listen and fulfill this curse. Laius is credited by some as “inventing” homosexuality. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sphinx <ul><li>It was said that Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian homeland to Thebes in Greece as punishment for Laius’ crimes where she asks all passersby the most famous riddle in history: </li></ul><ul><li>&quot; Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?&quot; She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus answers correctly: Man </li></ul><ul><li>Bested at last, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died (or she ate herself). </li></ul><ul><li>Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a threshold figure, helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the death of the Sphinx, and the rise of the new, Olympian gods. The riddle can also represent Oedipus and his journey. </li></ul><ul><li>The Sphinx can represent strangulation or bad luck </li></ul>
  11. 11. Symbolism in Oedipus Rex <ul><li>In Oedipus the King, the crossroads is referred to a number of times during the play, and it symbolizes the crucial moment, long before the events of the play, when Oedipus began to fulfill the dreadful prophecy that he would murder his father and marry his mother. </li></ul><ul><li>A crossroads is a place where a choice has to be made, so crossroads usually symbolize moments where decisions will have important consequences but where different choices are still possible. In Oedipus the King, the crossroads symbolizes fate and the awesome power of prophecy rather than freedom and choice </li></ul>
  12. 12. Symbolism in Oedipus Rex <ul><li>Sight and Blindness </li></ul><ul><li>References to eyesight and vision, both literal and metaphorical, are very frequent in all three of the Theban plays. Quite often, the image of clear vision is used as a metaphor for knowledge and insight. </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus as the Captain </li></ul><ul><li>Sophocles' use of the image &quot;ship of state.&quot; When this image appears, Sophocles is comparing Oedipus as ruler to the captain of a ship.. The image suggests that a ruler is in command of a vessel, and that it is his responsibility to navigate the ship, or state, to safe ports. When the captain is unreliable or irresponsible, the ship of state will flounder, and may even sink. Throughout the play Thebes is referred to as a ship tossing in the storm and Oedpus is the captain </li></ul>
  13. 13. Symbolism in Oedipus Rex <ul><li>Oedipus’s Swollen Foot </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus gets his name, as the Corinthian messenger tells us in Oedipus the King, from the fact that he was left in the mountains with his ankles pinned together. shortly after he was born. Oedipus’s injury symbolizes the way in which fate has marked him and set him apart. It also symbolizes the way his movements have been confined and constrained since birth, by Apollo’s prophecy to Laius. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Importance of Irony <ul><li>The use of irony is characteristic of Greek Tragedians, especially Sophocles </li></ul><ul><li>Everything said by the characters means more to the audience than it does to the speakers. </li></ul><ul><li>The audience is therefore in the position of the gods, and is able to see the struggles, hopes and fears of the characters against the background of truth </li></ul>
  15. 15. Irony <ul><li>This situation gives to the dramatic action an intensity and complication which is the hallmark of a Greek Tragedy </li></ul><ul><li>The audience understands everything on two different levels at once. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Examples of Irony <ul><li>Teresias, the blind Prophet that can “see” the truth – Oedipus will not see the truth until he is blind </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus curses the murderer – subjecting the murderer (thereby himself) to a life in exile and in misery </li></ul><ul><li>Oedipus leaves Cornith to avoid killing Polybus and sleeping with Merope and ends up fulfilling the prophesy in Thebes </li></ul>
  17. 17. Irony <ul><li>Oedipus states that he will search for Laius murderer “as if he were my own father.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jocasta’s first entrance is nagging and scolding –like a mother admonishing her son </li></ul><ul><li>The Corinthian Messenger comes bringing “Good News,” but in the end his news will bring about the end </li></ul><ul><li>Creon, accused wrongly of conspiring for the throne, ends up king at the end </li></ul>
  18. 18. Importance of the Chorus <ul><li>Unlike his contemporary Euripides, Sophocles was known to integrate his choruses into the action of the play. In Oedipus the King we see the Chorus constantly advising Oedipus to keep his cool. </li></ul><ul><li>when a tragic scene had taken place, the Chorus followed it by a song of purest poetry </li></ul><ul><li>In the great Greek dramas, the Chorus is a constant reminder that, though they cannot understand or explain them, there are other powers in the world than the wild passions of men. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Importance of the Chorus <ul><li>* The Chorus is roughly like the peanut-gallery (it’s even occasionally told to shut up). </li></ul><ul><li>* Provide exposition, comment on the play's action and to foreshadow future events. </li></ul><ul><li>* comments on the larger impact of the characters' actions and to expound upon the play's central themes. In Oedipus the King we get choral odes on everything from tyranny to the dangers of blasphemy. *The Chorus in Oedipus the King goes through a distinct character arc. They begin by being supportive of Oedipus, believing, based on his past successes, that he's the right man to fix their woes. As Oedipus's behavior becomes more erratic, they become uncertain and question his motives. In the end, the Chorus is on Oedipus's side again and laments his horrific fate. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Importance of Chorus <ul><li>Like most all ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles divides his choral odes into strophe and antistrophe. In Greek, strophe means &quot;turn,&quot; and antistrophe means &quot;turn back.&quot; During the strophe choruses danced from right to left and during the antistrophe they did the opposite. </li></ul><ul><li>Sophocles may have split them into two groups, so that it was as if one part of the Chorus was conversing with the other. Perhaps the dualities created by strophe and antistrophe, represent the endless, irresolvable debates for which Greek tragedy is famous. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Discussion Question #1 <ul><li>In what way might Oedipus represent Athens and what warning might Sophocles be issuing? </li></ul>
  22. 22. Discussion Questions #2 and #3 <ul><li>Oedipus hamartia (his tragic flaw) is usually considered by scholars to be hubris (pride). Can we charge him with bringing about his own downfall when he was cursed from birth? </li></ul><ul><li>If we do bestow him with a tragic flaw, what other character weakness might be just as fitting? </li></ul>

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