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Intro to Oedipus the King We begin reading the 1 st of the 2 plays in Sophocles I text Oedipus the King along with Notes on Oedipus the King and note12. 1) Background of Greek mythology and drama: the intertwining of the lives of Apollo and Oedipus in Sophocles’ plays Greek mythology reflected the violence of the natural world and the animal instincts of predator devouring prey onto the families of the gods and humans in their interfamily strife of patricide, matricide, infanticide, and incest, and intersocial strife of civil war and invasions. From the mating of the primordial couple Earth (Gaia) and Sky (Uranus) arising from chaos, several successive ‘dynasties’ or generations of Uranians, Titans, Monsters, Giants, gods, and men arose and violently struggled together. Greek mythology and its theology of primitive forces and gods reveal how the separation of the heavens and the earth came about and the ‘human condition” came about as the result of some ‘sin or broken command’ as our dawning consciousness tried to come to terms with our ‘human situation’ in the world. Thus it is a mythopoetic mix of ‘anthropomorphism’—our own projections, our experience in the world, and creative inspiration. Indeed, the violent father-son murders, brother-sister marriages of those several generations named above are the hallmark of all Indo-European mythology from Scandinavia and Germany to Iran, India and Greece. As we know, Zeus prevailed to become king of the gods in the sky, Poseidon in the sea, and Pluto in the underworld, with all sharing in rule of the earth. But the troubled succession from father to son continued between Zeus and his sons, notably Prometheus, a proto-savior, who brought and taught the use of fire to shivering humans and was punished by being chained to a rock by Zeus until saved by Hercules, another son of Zeus. Apollo along with his court representative, the blind seer Tiresius, (legend has it that he unfortunately came upon a goddess bathing and was struck blind but compensated by being a seer of the future) plays a huge role in the plot of the Oedipus plays. Most readers leave the plays with the impression of an adversarial relationship between Apollo and Oedipus with Oedipus the victim. But if we just fill in a few details from the mythological story of Apollo beyond the usual simple description of his being the god of the sun, patron of reason and philosophy, etc we see that Oedipus’ life re-echoes the father and son scenarios of the gods Uranus, Chronos, Zeus and Apollo with interesting variations in his life and also that of his sons who kill each other 1
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