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OTKbackgroundrevised - Sophocles Historical Perspective...

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Unformatted text preview: Sophocles Historical Perspective Written sometime between 496 and 406 BC There are many things that the Greek audience would have known before viewing this play. Your understanding of the play will be helped if you know these things too! A Riddle What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening, yet is weakest when supported by the largest number of feet? This is a riddle that Oedipus solved and saved the people of Thebes from the terror of the Sphinx. The Greek audience would have known about the myth of Oedipus: There was antagonism between the gods Hephaestus and Hera toward Cadmus of Thebes (Oedipus' ancestor). Gives a reason for the horrible divine prophecies that plague the characters in the play The Myth of Oedipus Theban King Laius received a prophecy that he would be killed by his own son who would then marry his widowed mother. So when Laius and Jocasta had a son, Laius pinned the baby's feet together and ordered a servant to leave him on a mountainside to die. The myth of Oedipus: The servant had a heart, so he gave the baby to a shepherd instead. The shepherd gave the baby to the king and queen of Corinth Named him Oedipus ("swollen foot") Oedipus went to the oracle at Delphi to learn his origins. He was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. The myth of Oedipus: Oedipus fled in horror, not wanting to kill his father and marry his mother During his travels, he ran into a chariot that tried to run him off the road. He killed the charioteer and the passenger, who was King Laius, King of Thebes, and his actual father, but Oedipus doesn't know either the identity of the man or his relation to him Oedipus arrives at Thebes, where the Sphinx is terrorizing the city anyone who cannot answer the riddle is killed Oedipus solves the Sphinx's riddle. The myth of Oedipus: Oedipus is given the throne of Thebes in thanks for saving the city from the Sphinx Thus, he marries the widowed Queen Jocasta, his actual mother. The Thebans were so terrorized by the Sphinx that they never investigated the murder of King Laius 20 years later, a plague affects Thebes. This is where OTK begins Oedipus attempts to save his city. The myth of Oedipus Oedipus receives a new prophecy The plague will only leave the city once King Laius' murderer is brought to justice Jocasta commits suicide when the truth of Oedipus' past is revealed. Sorry if you think I've ruined something! But the audience's knowledge of what happens in the end is vital... The audience's knowledge of all of these details makes possible the dramatic irony that the plot is centered upon. Possible themes of Oedipus the King: Wisdom is achieved through suffering. Human defenses are frail. Our feelings of security and power are folly. There is a strange inevitability of human fate or destiny. Human misery comes from trying to overcome divine prophecy. The author: Sophocles Sophocles lived 496-406 BC Oedipus the King has been called the greatest Greek Tragedy wrote 120 plays won 18 first prizes in the annual competition among playwrights held in the festival for Dionysus in Athens his work is one of three great tragedians that survived Aeschylus, Euripides Form Drama But more specifically... Tragedy tragos (goat) + oide (ode or song) Aristotle identified Oedipus the King as the definitive tragedy. Aristotle (in Poetics) identified the following components of Greek tragedy catharsis an emotional purging that is the end goal of tragedy the tragic plot: representation of action reversal, recognition, suffering seriousness, completeness, artistic balance diction and song though the original conventions of rhythm and meter of Greek drama were lost in translation tragic hero with a tragic flaw Irony Debate (agon) stichomythia -- brisk staccato of one-liners for up to 100 lines at a time report -- messengers report events such as carnage and death when messengers show up, expect the worst! The Greeks used certain devices to build suspense and engage interest. All of these techniques are present in Oedipus the King. Notes: The Greek Chorus What does it look like? Uniform Masks How many? 50-15 What does it do? Offers spectacle and adds emotional effects Provides actors with a break, helps with scene changes Gives background and summary to help the audience understand Model audience response Evoke visionary experience (Nietzsche) Counter the main character (think balance of rationality and commons sense with Oedipus' intuition) Notes: The Greek Chorus Key Terms: Strophe (movement) Antistrophe (countermovement) Epode- the afterpiece Kommos- interaction between chorus and the actor. Purpose of Greek Drama entertain and educate based on Greek myths-- so also communicated the stories that taught Greek morals and values performed at festivals for entertainment Essential Questions Theme: Does Oedipus deserve his suffering? Can we hold him accountable for his suffering? Form: What do you think is the role of the chorus in Greek drama? Chorus = voice of citizens of Thebes in this play Form: What is the most significant of Aristotle's elements of tragedy? What does this text offer us toward why literature matters? ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/16/2011 for the course LIT 113 taught by Professor Howard during the Spring '09 term at Grand Valley State.

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OTKbackgroundrevised - Sophocles Historical Perspective...

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