Notes on Oedipus the King

Greek Tragedy

cosmic order guiding universe that can’t be comprehended by mortals man has set boundaries. universe will react to man just as man must submit to universe man has free will--within limitations of circumstances--and is responsible for them happiness comes through reverence & humility .Notes on Oedipus the King The Sophoclean View harmonious purpose.

moral dignity. emotional significance violence off-stage (in contrast to “closet dramas” of Romans) . outside forces. dramatist’s reinterpretation. explanation of myths focus on meaning of life. but playwrights had freedom to change myths audience listened for personal motives.Notes on Oedipus the King Content of Greek Tragedies stories taken from mythology & heroic legends not much suspense.

Notes on Oedipus the King Oedipus & Family: The Mythological Background second in popularity after Trojan Wars 2 generations before expedition to Troy. king & queen of Thebes. warned by oracle of Apollo at Delphi that newborn son destined to kill father & marry mother . Laius & Jocasta.

next to Zeus. the god most revered by the Greeks and the god who best embodied the Greek spirit . whose famous temple and prophetic shrine were there Delphic oracle gave its messages in such ambiguous ways that it could seldom be proven wrong (role of Fates) became.Notes on Oedipus the King Apollo god of prophecy and patron of philosophy and the arts.

Merope named boy Oedipus (Swollen-Foot) & raised him grown Oedipus visited Delphic oracle. gave to shepherd to abandon shepherd secretly gave infant to herdsman from Corinth herdsman took baby to master.Notes on Oedipus the King Laius pierced baby’s feet w/iron pin. hears same prophecy. King of Corinth (Polybus) & wife. leaves came upon travelers (King Laius on way to Delphi for help w/Sphinx) .

Notes on Oedipus the King The Sphinx In the story of Oedipus the sphinx became a winged monster with the body of a lion and the head of a woman. riddled & ate travelers on road to Thebes .

Oedipus slays Laius & servants. has four kids .Notes on Oedipus the King Laius & Oedipus fight over right-of-way. she dies Oedipus hero to people of Thebes & made new king after they learned Laius had been killed by gang of bandits marries Jocasta. unaware of their names continues to Thebes & meets Sphinx answered riddle.

Notes on Oedipus the King Creon. Jocasta’s brother. Antigone rejected by all granted sanctuary by king of Athens Creon wants Oedipus back because prophecy promises good fortune to city possessing grave of Oedipus Oedipus dies at Colonus . which happens years later Oedipus wanders Greece with faithful daughter. persuades Oedipus to await Oracle’s instruction before exile.

.g. hubris) .Notes on Oedipus the King character* (tragic hero) psychological motivation not important (compared to modern day) must arouse pity & fear in audience ideal protagonist highly renowned & prosperous not pre-eminently virtuous & just (e.

not personal quality called “tragic flaw”: hero takes step that initiates events of his downfall downfall result of role of destiny/chance .Notes on Oedipus the King consistent & true to life misfortune brought on by error of judgment/frailty harmartia hero’s frailty.

Oedipus is at fault foreknowledge not foreordaining gods are at fault. Oedipus is innocent Oedipus is puppet. harmartia is mistake. not moral fault tragedy of destiny .Notes on Oedipus the King Which interpretation? gods are just.

Notes on Oedipus the King neither gods nor Oedipus is at fault Oedipus is admirable. desire for truth he intended to do right gods can’t be judged by human standards of justice. are mysterious but not evil . but not perfect pities suffering kingdom.

Notes on Oedipus the King Themes What is man’s relation to god(s)? What is a successful man? Does fate control us or do we control our own destinies? What are the benefits/drawbacks of being a leader? How important is knowledge/knowing the “truth”? .