Athenian writer of tragedies in his own lifetime. Of his plays, only 7 have survived. Oedipus the King, also called Oedipus. Tyrannos or Oedipus Rex, written. Oedipus Rex. SOPHOCLES. TRANSLATED BY DUDLEY FITTS AND ROBERT FITZGERALD. CHARACTERS. OEDIPUS,. King of Thebes, supposed son. who took him to his master, the King of Corinth. reveals Jocasta slain by her own hand and Oedipus blinded Yea, Oedipus, my sovereign lord and king.
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The Oedipus Rex, without argument one of the greatest plays ever written in any language, is also one of the most complex. Scholars have spent millennia. OEDIPUS THE KING. An Abridged and Adapted Version of Sophocles' Play* by Nick Bartel, (Intended for use as Readers' Theater in the Junior - Senior. OEDIPUS My children, latest born to Cadmus old,. Why sit ye here as suppliants, in your hands. Branches of olive filleted with wool? What means this reek of.
Sophocles then, may have sown, back in his age, the seed of modern existantialism in a very subtle way, left to be explored by men of coming eras. Poetics- translated by S. Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z. Revised Ed. Is Oedipus Smart?. Philosophy and Literature, 30 2 , pp.
Available from: On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex. The Tragic Flaw: Is It a Tragic Error?. The Modern Language Review, 58 3 , pp. Oedipus Rex-translated by F. London, William Heinemann Ltd. Related Papers. By Wo3oD Fouda.
Oedipal Fate: Reciprocity, Abandonment, and Choice in Oedipus. By dean caputo. Oedipus Rex essay. By Steven Smith. Download pdf. Once on a time Loxias said that I should lie with my own mother and take on my hands the blood of my own father. Best to live lightly, as one can, unthinkingly. But he to whom such things are nothing bears his life most easily. Pythian hearth n. You took me from someone else? Do you know him well enough to tell? Tell me.
Is he the man he mentions? It will be wasted labor. What I am suffering is enough. God keep you from the knowledge of who you are! I am afraid that trouble will break out of this silence. I at least shall be willing to see my ancestry, though humble.
But I account myself a child of Fortune,62 beneficent Fortune, and I shall not be dishonored. Such is my breeding, and I shall never prove so false to it, as not to find the secret of my birth. Antistrophe Who was it bore you, child? One of the long-lived nymphs63 who lay with Pan64— the father who treads the hills?
Or was she a bride of Loxias, your mother? The grassy slopes are all of them dear to him. His old age is consonant with the other. And besides, the men who bring him I recognize as my own servants.
For if Laius had ever an honest shepherd, this was he. Were you ever 63 nymphs n.
How did you live? What do you want to know? Well—am I right or not in what I said we did? I have told you that I gave it. Was it your own or did you get it from another?
Why do you ask the question? Your words are more at fault than his. Or born in wedlock? But I must hear. Strophe But now whose tale is more miserable? Whose troubles so reverse his life as his? O Oedipus, the famous prince for whom a great have the same both as a father and son sufficed for generation, how, O how, have the furrows plowed by your father endured to bear you, poor wretch, and hold their peace so long?
Antistrophe Time who sees all has found you out against your will; judges your marriage accursed, begetter and begot at one in it. O child of Laius, would I had never seen you. I weep for you and cry a dirge of lamentation. To speak directly, I drew my breath from you at the first and so now I lull my mouth to sleep with your name. But he saved it for the most terrible troubles.
Light of the sun, let me look upon you no more after today! I who first saw the light bred of a match accursed and accursed in my living with them I lived with, cursed in my killing. What man, What man on earth wins more of happiness than a seeming and after that turning away? Luckless Oedipus, whom of all men I envy not at all. Phasts nor Ister67 cannot purge68 this house, I think, with all their streams, such things it hides, such evils shortly will bring forth into the light, whether they will or not; and troubles hurt the most when they prove self-inflicted.
The worst of what was done you cannot know. You did not see the sight. When she came raging into the house she went straight to her marriage bed, tearing her hair with both her hands, and crying upon Laius long dead—Do you remember, Laius, that night long past which bred a child for us to send you to your death and leave a mother making children with her son?
How after that she died I do not know, — for Oedipus distracted us from seeing. As he raved some god showed him the way—none of us there. Bellowing terribly and led by some invisible guide he rushed on the two doors, — wrenching the hollow bolts out of their sockets, he charged inside.
There, there, we saw his wife hanging, the twisted rope around her neck. When he saw her, he cried out fearfully and cut the dangling noose.
Then as she lay, poor woman, on the ground, what happened after. He tore the brooches— the gold chased brooches fastening her robe— away from her and lifting them up high dashed them on his own eyeballs, shrieking out such things as: they will never see the crime I have committed or had done upon me!
Dark eyes, now in the days to come look on forbidden faces, do not recognize those whom you long for—with such imprecations69 he struck his eyes again and yet again with the brooches. And the bleeding eyeballs gushed and stained his beard—no sluggish oozing drops but a black rain and bloody hail poured down. So it has broken—and not on one head but troubles mixed for husband and for wife.
But he wants for strength, aye, and some one to guide him; his sickness is too great to bear. You, too, will be shown that. The bolts are opening. Soon you will see a sight to waken pity even in the horror of it. I never found a worse! I shudder at the sight of you. Where is my voice borne on the wind to and fro? Horror of darkness enfolding, resistless unspeakable visitant sped by an ill wind in haste!
Your care is not unnoticed. I can know your voice, although this darkness is my world. What spirit urged you to it? But the hand that struck me was none but my own. Why should I see whose vision shoed me nothing sweet to see? Cithaeron, why did you receive me? Now I am found to be a sinner and a son of sinners.
O marriage, marriage! Approach and deign to touch me for all my wretchedness, and do not fear. No man but I can bear my evil doom. Take me away, and haste—to the place out of the way! Take me away, my friends, the greatly miserable, the most accursed, whom God too hates above all men on earth! He stole me from death and saved me, no kindly service.
Had I died then I would not be so burdensome to friends. Now I am godless and child of impurity, begetter in the same seed that created my wretched self. If there is any ill worse than ill, that is the lot of Oedipus. I do not know with what eyes I could look upon my father when I die and go under the earth, nor yet my wretched mother— those two to whom I have done things deserving worse punishment than hanging.
Would the sight of children bred as mine are, gladden me? And my city, its towers and sacred places of the Gods, of these I robbed my miserable self when I commanded all to drive him out, the criminal since proved by God impure and of the race of Laius.
To this guilt I bore witness against myself— with what eyes shall I look upon my people? Creon is left as sole ruler in your stead. What shall I say to him? In what is past I have been proved towards him an utter liar. But if you still are without shame before the face of men reverence at least the flame that gives all life, our Lord the Sun, and do not show unveiled to him pollution such that neither land nor holy rain nor light of day can welcome.
It is most decent that only kin should see and hear the troubles of kin. I shall speak for your own good, not for my own.
I command you—and will beseech you— to her that lies inside that house give burial as you would have it; she is yours and rightly you will perform the rites for her. Yet I know this much: no sickness and no other thing will kill me. I would not have been saved from death if not For some strange evil fate. Well, let my fate go where it will. But my two girls—so sad and pitiful— whose table never stood apart from mine, and everything I touched they always shared— O Creon, have a thought for them!
And most I wish that you might suffer me to touch them and sorrow with them. O true noble Creon! Can I really be touching them, as when I saw? What shall I say? Yes, I can hear them sobbing—my two darlings!
Am I right? O children, where are you? I weep for you—I cannot see your faces— I weep when I think of the bitterness there will be in your lives, how you must live before the world. At what assemblages gay company will you go and not come home in tears instead of sharing in the holiday? What curse is not there?
Then who will marry you? No one, my children; clearly you are doomed to waste away in barrenness unmarried. Son of Menoeceus,73 since you are all the father left these two girls, and we, their parents, both are dread to them—do not allow them wander like beggars, poor and husbandless. And do not make them equal with myself in wretchedness; for you can see them now so young, so utterly alone, save you only. The main actors spoke in one of several variations of verse with all the features of poetic speech except rhyme: figurative language; alliteration; meter; and wordplay.
Stage settings were not elaborate. Of the three major tragedians Sophocles was the most austere although he was known for using splendid costumes and music. Sophocles was responsible for some notable innovations: the introduction of a third speaking actor onstage making for more complex interchanges ; an increase in the number of chorus members; special focus on the central character; and development of the characteristics of the tragic 16 hero.
Greek scholar Bernard M. Sophocles also broke from tradition by producing plays that stood alone; he wrote no trilogies. The Theban plays—Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus—are frequently read as a unit because they overlap thematically and chronologically, but each has its distinct mood and integrity.
Antigone, written first, belongs chronologically after Oedipus Rex and before Oedipus at Colonus. The best-known traditional element of Greek tragedy is the chorus—the onstage performers of song and dance— which functions as a single voice or even a single idea in material form. In the absence of explicit stage directions, the alternating dialogues among protagonist, chorus, and the other actors divide the play into discrete sections; these provide the structure for Greek tragedy. Aristotle in his Poetics c.
The chorus has multiple functions. The odes summarize the preceding action or speculate about its significance; both help clarify the issues for the audience. By anticipating the horrifying acts to come, the chorus can act as a kind of companion to the audience: a shock prepared for is a shock mitigated just enough to keep people in their seats. Generally the chorus stands like the audience outside the action, but unlike the audience makes comments and often has a stake in the outcome.
The chorus also functions as a normative standard against which the protagonist struggles. Since the consequences of the action in tragedies are generally frightful, the chorus response can sound 17 like the voice of humanity itself. By framing and elevating the ideas inherent in the action, the chorus is offering them to the audience for its own speculations.
Finally, the chorus stands in opposition to the dreadful notion that the universe is without meaning. Its monumental task is to make sense of the suffering it has witnessed onstage, thus keeping order intact and chaos at bay.
Bernard Zimmerman in Greek Tragedy: An Introduction explains the different ways the tragic poets used the chorus: In Aeschylus [the chorus] serves as a vehicle of the dramatic action, and in Sophocles becomes a distinct dramatis persona with a minor part in that action. The Euripidean chorus, by contrast, dismayed at what is happening around and in part because of it, no longer participates in the action but only sympathizes with the actors.
Writers of tragedy took their material from legend and myth—sources that lent themselves to variations in the retelling. Playwrights could assume their audiences were familiar with the old legends; their task was to present the material in original ways. The most prominent features of Greek tragedy are the spectacle and mystery of human suffering.
The phenomenon of suffering—omnipresent and universal—stirs the intellect as well as the heart. The notion of a single figure of high prominence at the center of the tragic action originated with Aristotle in Poetics. Aristotle singled out Oedipus Rex as the purest example of Greek tragedy, but centuries of attention to all forms of tragedy has established the validity of more than one narrative pattern.
Aristotle is of course not alone in singling out the play for special praise. And Freud brought a different kind of fame to the play when he used the Oedipal story in his Interpretation of Dreams as a paradigm for the unconscious desire for parricide and incest.
The Oedipus complex has persisted as a major and widely recognized also disputed cultural concept. Intellectuals of the Romantic period were especially drawn to the profound questions about personal identity that the story of Oedipus raised. She points out how amazing it is that they survived in manuscript form for 1, years, and reminds her contemporary readers who have no trouble finding copies of the plays in any bookstore that such ready availability is relatively recent.
And, in 19 fact, Oedipus Rex was caught up in the long and loud debate over censorship in the British theater. The play had been performed in its original Greek at Cambridge University in , but professional productions were forbidden. In the Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, Fiona Macintosh, Lecturer in English at the University of London, provides a detailed account of the production history of Greek tragedy during the 19th and 20th centuries.
A license to perform was finally granted in by the Examiner of Plays. Most Americans are familiar with this ancient play or at least recognize elements of the story.
Scholars have numerous explanations for its widespread appeal. Other readers have noted that human beings have been grappling for centuries with the fearful mystery of undeserved suffering that the play so memorably embodies. In our own time we cannot avoid coming face to face through the media with the grim spectacles of genocide, civil wars, torture, and the awesomely destructive powers of nature.
All these involve the suffering of innocents on a grand scale. Greek tragedy and the related concept of the tragic hero have acquired a special status in Western culture. Here is something to ponder: Is there a value to preserving a definition of tragedy that prevents its use in describing the entire range of personal or collective misfortune? Clearly there are differences between the sorry fate of a person fatally struck by lightning and the tribulation undergone by a figure like King Lear, Antigone, or Oedipus.
It is possible that by knowing the character and circumstances of the person struck by lightning we might conclude that a genuinely tragic episode had occurred instead of a lamentable or catastrophic one.
But what if something inestimable and essential about human life is lost by allowing these categories to be blurred or diluted? Oedipus Rex brings the reader face to face with this issue. Readers may decide that their experience with the play is, among other things, an opportunity to reflect on whether these issues matter for the individual or cultural life.
His name connects him to his origins and character. Abandoned as an infant on a mountainside, with his ankles pierced to ensure his death, Oedipus later walks as an adult with swollen feet—one of the meanings of the words that make up his name. Oedipus has two personalities in the play; or more accurately, he reveals two sides of his complex character as the play unfolds. In the beginning he is a model of Athenian virtue; he is masterful, optimistic, confident, and benign.
When his reign is threatened he becomes suspicious, wrathful, punitive, and tyrannical. His fall from royal status and happy matrimony to shameful banishment has become the symbol of the reversal of fortune. Jocasta is sister of Creon, widow of Laius, and doomed wife and mother of Oedipus. Her bold and irreverent question about the reliability of oracles raises the issues—central to the play—of fate and free will, the role of Chance in the events transpiring, and the nature of divine justice.
Later she exposes her ambivalence about the gods by making an offering to Apollo. After realizing the truth of the terrible prophecy and failing to prevent Oedipus from his own discovery of it, Jocasta flees to their bedroom and hangs herself.
The chaotic Sphinx and her nefarious riddle sabotaged his brief reign as king of Thebes following the death of Laius. At the end of the play Creon does replace Oedipus as king of Thebes, but he shows no signs of gloating or excessive pride. Teiresias was a legendary Theban seer with supernatural gifts of clairvoyance and prophecy.
The goddess Minerva bestowed these gifts on Teiresias to compensate for his loss of eyesight. He was said to have both male and female characteristics to enhance his ability to know all that was, is, and will be. Teiresias is given a prominent role in T. In Oedipus Rex Teiresias is as reluctant to tell what he knows as Oedipus is eager to hear it. The arrival of the seer effects a change in Oedipus from being a benign king concerned for his people to a ruler indignantly defending his royal status.
Teiresias lives by intuition and symbol; Oedipus by power and directness. The clash between these two giant figures contributes to the dramatic energy of the play. The Chorus is distinct from the supplicants. It is drawn from a representative group of educated and reflective citizens, although it speaks with one voice.
The chorus is loyal to Oedipus and resists any accusation made against him without proof. When the validity of oracles is questioned, the chorus experiences great anxiety.
It sings its famous ode about the consequences of losing belief in a divine order. One of the functions the chorus has is to 23 anticipate and deflect the rising terror felt onstage by the other participants, including the audience. When terror can be held at a distance, the chorus takes up another of its functions: it analyzes what has happened and then speculates about meaning and consequences. The crowd of Supplicants that approaches Oedipus represents the diverse population of Thebes currently suffering the afflictions of the plague.
An elder calling himself the Priest of Zeus addresses Oedipus reverently and beseeches him to find the cause of the plague and a way to end it. The Servant of Laius is summoned by Oedipus to tell his version of the murder at the crossroads.
Oedipus says he killed all the men, leaving no survivors; the servant claims to have been the sole survivor. There are two Messengers. The first arrives at the palace to announce the death from old age of Polybus, father of Oedipus and king of Corinth, and the related news that Oedipus will be called as the new king.
Their relief is short-lived.
The messenger goes on to identify himself as the shepherd who was given the infant Oedipus and who in turn gave him to the childless king and queen.
In this way Oedipus learns a critical piece of his own riddle—that he is not blood-related to Laius. Their brief appearance at the end of the play to say good-bye to their blinded and ruined father adds to the enormity of the horror onstage. They come at the invitation of Creon, who, in this gesture, reveals a measure of generosity and respect for the fallen Oedipus.
Despite all this time and attention, there is still no consensus about the play. It is simply too dense with issues both timeless and timely. More than one hundred years ago, Clifton W. Collins, while acknowledging the complexity of the play, pointed out another marvel: the deceptively simple plot. This description is not quite accurate. The separate enactments of parricide and incest have occurred or been initiated offstage; graphic renderings of horrible deeds were rarely depicted onstage in Greek drama.
What the play does provide is a retelling of the life of Oedipus from fortuitous rescue on the deserted mountainside to celebrated kingship to precipitous fall—all compressed into a matter of minutes on the stage. The action is fast paced. An inquisitive spirit—a compulsion to ask questions— permeates the play. These questions become matters of life and death for Oedipus. One way for the new reader 26 to frame the question is to focus on the issue of responsibility. It is the one that generates the most passionate disputes and comes in many variations.
Did Oedipus invite his own fate through some error or flaw? Is divine justice ever comprehensible from a human perspective? These matters of free will and predestination, of choice and determinism, and of responsibility and accountability are always relevant and engaging. After grappling with these timeless issues, the reader may decide to focus on the more manageable questions about how the play works as a play.
In either case the main activity on- and offstage is one of discovery. The songs and dances performed by the chorus are essential for defining these divisions. The prologue is the part of the play that comes before the chorus makes its first appearance.
Sometimes the alternating strophe and antistrophe function as a mind in debate with itself. In the chronology of the Oedipus legend, Oedipus Rex tells the first part of the story. In the opening scene before the assembly of beleaguered supplicants, Oedipus radiates the essence of royal power and dignity.
He is masterful, confident, compassionate, prescient, and ready to act in the service of his subjects. It is the job of the king or president or prime minister to keep chaos at bay in his realm, and Oedipus, in word and demeanor, conveys confidently and unhesitatingly his intention to do so. He addresses his people like a father to his children. Thebes is like an extended family. The plague is not present in every version of the Oedipus story. The plague afflicting Thebes is more than a spreading of infectious agents such as typhus, the likely historical scenario.
As described by the priest whom Oedipus calls upon to speak, this plague behaves like a preternatural event—an assault on the regenerative sources of life itself: women of childbearing age, seeds, and female cattle. The Greeks believed that destructive acts of nature were the work of the gods; the prospect of sterility—the end of life on earth—would therefore suggest that a monumental offense violating the order of creation had been committed.
This ship-of-state imagery continues and intensifies in the play. The Theban citizens have staged a kind of demonstration in front of the palace, and their very presence poses a question to Oedipus about what he can do to save them.
They regard their king not as godlike but as their esteemed leader who has pitted 28 his intellectual power against the abominable Sphinx and won. The Sphinx made its first appearance as a symbol in the age of the Fourth Dynasty c. In Greek mythology the figure is female and equipped with wings. Perhaps the addition of wings was made to expand the range of its destructive powers. The noted English scholar of Sophoclean drama, R. The Sphinx demanded an answer to her infamous riddle and dashed to bits the body of each poor soul who tried and failed.
The riddle asked for a definition: what being is it that sometimes has four feet, sometimes two, and sometimes three; speaks with a single voice; and is weakest when it has the most. Phrasing her riddle deceptively, the Sphinx tricks her victims into thinking only an exotic answer will work.
The answer is quite simple, however, and Oedipus gets it at once. He addresses the Sphinx: Man is it thou hast described, who, when on earth he appeareth, first as a babe from the womb, four-footed creeps on his way, then when old age cometh on, and the burden of years weighs full heavy, bending his shoulders and neck, as a third foot useth his staff.
To the man who could accomplish this feat, the despairing Creon had offered the throne and his widowed sister as wife. Thus he had come to be both savior of Thebes and famed solver of riddles. He assumed the throne and went on to marry Jocasta. They had two sons, Polynices and Etocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene. Under his reign Thebes enjoyed a peaceful interlude and Oedipus enjoyed prosperity and wedded life.
The challenge Sophocles faced in having to present the familiar material in arresting ways is accomplished in the image he creates here of Oedipus towering graciously and masterfully over his people with no inkling of the doom the audience knows awaits him. Created at the start of the play, this dual narrative is responsible for much of the dramatic tension and pleasure in the play. In this opening scene Oedipus is enjoying what he will soon remember as his final moments of unqualified public acclaim.
His people have come seeking another dramatic rescue. In keeping with his proactive character, Oedipus has already sent Creon to seek advice at Delphi. The shrine at Delphi honoring Apollo has already delivered two important oracles for the story neither is enacted in this play. The first was the oracle that informed King Laius that his own son not yet born would murder him and then wed his wife.
The second was the occasion much later when Oedipus consulted the oracle about his true identity after it was called into question by a countryman. He was told that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother, but— unhelpfully—not who they were.
The Greeks looked upon this shrine as the most sacred spot in their country, occupying the place Jerusalem would come to have for Christians. In making Creon his emissary to the shrine, Oedipus has made two critical and revealing choices. He has initiated the act of problem solving he is already known for, which in turn will lead to the tenacious pursuit of truth he will become known for.