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The Tragedy of the Royal House of Thebes Outline Notes

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1 The Tragedy of the Royal House of Thebes Outline Notes
Sophocles: Greek Playwright Circa 495 – 406 BC

2 The Three Plays of the Oedipus Cycle
Oedipus the King Oedipus at Colonus Antigone Written circa 411 BC Antigone is the third play in the trilogy, but Sophocles wrote it before he wrote the other two plays.

3 Important Cities Pay attention to the next two maps.
Look for the following cities: Thebes Delphi Corinth Argos Region of Boeotia



6 The Origin of The Royal House of Thebes
The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi Apollo was the god of Truth and Prophecy The Oracle was the priestess Pythia. She could communicate with Apollo and provide humans with a prediction of their fates. Although her prophecies were destined to come true, her messages often consisted of incomplete information, and what she said was confusing for humans to completely understand.

7 Apollo and The Temple at Delphi

8 Temple of Apollo at Didyma

9 Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi
An Example of Greek Architecture

10 Cadmus The First King of Thebes
Cadmus and his sister Europa were the children of Agenor I, the king of Phoenicia. Cadmus and Europa were descendants of the god Zeus (his great-great grandchildren).

11 Zeus and Zeus Fighting a Titan

12 Background: The Founding of Thebes
The princess Europa disappeared from the coasts of Phoenicia on the back of a bull (Zeus in disguise had kidnapped her). Agenor I, sent Cadmus in search of Europa, telling him not to return until he had found his sister. However, nothing was ever found of her, except for the name of the land called Europa. (She had been left by Zeus (the bull) upon the shore by Mount Dicte in Crete.)

13 The Abduction of Europa

14 What Cadmus Did: Cadmus searched for Europa but could not find her.
Cadmus in his wanderings came to Delphi. There the oracle told him to buy an ox which had a moon-shaped mark on its side, and to drive it before him. Where it lay down, it was fated that Cadmus would found a city and rule as its king. He settled in Boeotia (named for the ox), and founded in this new land the city of Cadmea, later called Thebes. These events took place approximately 200 years before the Trojan War.

15 Ares’ Serpent When the place for the new city was determined, Cadmus decided to sacrifice the ox to the goddess Athena. He sent some of his men to draw water from a spring (later called Dirce) belonging to Ares (the god of war). The spring was guarded by a serpent or dragon which was the sacred offspring of Ares. Ares’ dragon had a golden crest, flashed fire from its eyes, had a triple tongue, teeth ranged in triple rows, and its body was swollen with poison. It devoured Cadmus' men. Cadmus confronted the dragon and killed it. Athena told him to plant the dragon’s teeth in the earth.

16 Cadmus and the Serpent



19 Athena Goddess of wisdom, war strategies, the defense of cities, heroic endeavor, weaving, pottery and other crafts, domestic arts, agriculture, the olive tree, and Athens. She was depicted as crowned with a crested helm, armed with shield and spear, and wearing the snake-trimmed Aegis cloak wrapped around her breast and arm, adorned with the head of the Gorgon. She was born fully grown from the head of Zeus.

20 The Sparti From the sown teeth sprang forth armed men (Sparti) who began fighting and killing each other. Five of them survived the massacre. The five Sparti had supernatural powers with which they helped Cadmus build the new city. The Sparti were the progenitors of the following generations of citizens of Thebes. Cadmus married Harmonia. Together they ruled Thebes as its first King and Queen The Fate of Cadmus and Harmonia Cadmus and Harmonia were turned into serpents because he had killed the dragon of Ares.

21 Cadmus and Harmonia are turned into Snakes


23 Time to skip a few generations to focus on the important part of the story.
Cadmus founded the city of Thebes The throne of a city was passed on the eldest male heir. Women could not be rulers in Greek society. Cadmus’ son was Polydorus. Polydorus’ son was Labdacus. Labdacus’ son was Laius.

24 House of Thebes Family Tree (edited) Yes, write this in your notes.
Zeus = Io Epaphus Poseidon = Lybia Agenor Cadmus = Harmonia Europa (= Zeus) Polydorus (son of Cadmus) Labdacus (son of Polydorus) Laius (son of Labdacus)

25 House of Thebes Family Tree (continued)
Labdacus Menoeceus I (Great-Grandchild of Cadmus) Laius = Jocasta Creon = Eurydice Oedipus Haemon Menoeceus II

26 King Laius: A Curse on the House of Thebes
Prior to becoming the King of Thebes, Laius lived in exile in Peloponnesus, hosted by King Pelops I. Laius fell in love with Pelops' illegitimate son Chryssipus II. Laius abducted Chryssipus and was eventually arrested by Chryssipus’ half brothers. However, Pelops did not wish to punish a man on account of his love. The gods took exception to the abduction (not to Laius’ love for Chryssipus) and set a curse on Laius that would last for three generations. Chryssipus was eventually murdered by the queen, who wanted her own sons to inherit the throne.

27 Laius’ Abduction of Chryssipus

28 Laius’ Return to Thebes
Laius returned to Thebes as its rightful king with Jocasta (a distant cousin), daughter of Menoeceus I as his queen. Laius wanted to know if he would have an heir to the throne. The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi warned him not to have a son because that son was fated to kill his own father. But Laius disregarded the oracle (further grounds for him to be punished by the gods) and eventually he and Jocasta conceived a son.

29 Laius Attempts to Change his Fate
In his fear that the Oracle’s prophecy would come true, Laius plotted to kill his son. Laius ordered a shepherd to take the baby and bind (or bolt) the baby’s feet so he could not walk, and then take the child to the mountains and abandon it. In this plot, Laius thought that he could not be accused of killing the child because he did not directly do it himself. The shepherd did as he was told, except . . .

30 Oedipus is Rescued Instead of abandoning the baby, Laius’ shepherd gave it to another shepherd, who in turn took the child to the city of Corinth. There, King Polybus adopted the child as his own son. The child was named Oedipus. Oedipus means “swollen foot.” His feet had swollen because they had been so tightly bound together. (Another version of the story indicates that his ankles had been riveted together with a bolt.)

31 Oedipus Becomes and Adult
He encountered a drunkard on the street who told him that Oedipus was not the true son of the king, and that he could not inherit the throne of Corinth. Oedipus went to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi and learned bad news and worse news: 1. You are going to kill your father. 2. You are going to marry your mother.

32 Banished from Corinth Continuing to believe that Polybus was his real father, Oedipus attempted to change his fate by vowing to banish himself from Corinth, never to return, so that he could not harm his father or mother. He was man without a homeland. He wandered Greece as he tried to determine what he should do. But as fate would have it . . .

33 Battle at the Crossroad
He came to a crossroad where he encountered an old man in a chariot and his five guards. A conflict ensued between Oedipus and the old man regarding who had the right to pass. Neither would relinquish, swords were drawn, and a battle ensued. Oedipus killed the old man and four of his guards. The fifth guard escaped and fled.

34 Meanwhile, Back in Thebes
The guard returned to the Palace of Thebes to reveal the news that King Laius had been murdered by a band of robbers. As Laius had no heir to the throne because he had disposed of his only son, Creon, the brother of Jocasta, the Queen, became the acting regent. (Women were not allowed to be in positions of power.) The first part of Oedipus’ fate had been fulfilled. He has unknowingly killed his father.

35 The Sphinx Asks a Riddle
As if the death of the king were not bad enough, Thebes had another problem to deal with. A Sphinx had begun to terrorize the city. The Sphinx is creature that has the body of a lion, the upper torso of a woman, and it has wings. The Sphinx asked all passersby a riddle. If the person could not answer the riddle, the Sphinx strangled the victim, and then ate the body. Sphinx means “the strangler.”

36 Oedipus and the Sphinx

37 Creon’s Proclamation Creon had to save the city, so he proclaimed that anyone who could save Thebes from the Sphinx would be rewarded: 1. The hero would become the king of Thebes. 2. He would marry Queen Jocasta. Along came Oedipus, who had heard of the offer. Being a man without a country, he had nothing to lose, so he accepted the challenge and approached the Sphinx.

38 The Riddle and the Prize
What goes on four feet in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening? Oedipus answered the question: The answer is man: At birth, he crawls, as an adult he walks upright on two feet, and as an old man he walks with a cane. The Sphinx threw itself from a cliff and died. Oedipus became the King of Thebes. Oedipus married his mother, Jocasta, and unknowingly fulfilled the second part of his fate.

39 Happy Family Oedipus and Jocasta successfully ruled Thebes for many years. They had four children Twin sons, Eteocles and Polyneices and Two daughters, Antigone and Ismene

40 House of Thebes Family Tree (completed)
Laius = Jocasta Creon = Eurydice Oedipus = Jocasta Haemon Menoeceus II Eteocles Polyneices Ismene Antigone* * Haemon and Antigone are engaged to be married.

41 More Bad News Thebes began to suffer from a Plague and a Famine
Oedipus had to save the city, so he sent Creon to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi to find out what had to be done. The Oracle told Creon that Thebes could only be saved by revealing the killer of King Laius. Oedipus began his investigation and little by little, the facts came out, but Oedipus’ pride would not allow him to accept the testimony of his witnesses.

42 The Truth and its Consequences
Ultimately, the two shepherds who had been involved in Laius’ plot to kill his son came forth and revealed their roles, and the truth that Oedipus was, in fact, the son of Laius, and that Jocasta was his mother. Jocasta, in her shame, hanged herself. Oedipus, in his shame, took the two brooches from Jocasta’s gown and plunged the pins into his eyes, thus blinding himself from the vision of what he had done.

43 Oedipus

44 The Final Curse Oedipus promised to banish himself from Thebes, never to return. Antigone accompanied him on his journey; Ismene stayed in Thebes to look after his affairs. Polyneices and Eteocles despised their father for what he had done, even though it was not his fault. They cursed their father and kicked him out of the city. As Oedipus left Thebes, he cursed his sons and told them that their inheritance would be divided by the sword.

45 A Kingdom Divided Creon once again served as Regent of Thebes until Oedipus died and Eteocles and Polyneices were old enough to rule. Because they were twins, Eteocles and Polyneices agreed to share the throne by ruling in alternate years. Eteocles would rule for the first year, then Polyneices would take over for the second year. At the end of the first year, Eteocles refused to give up the throne to his brother, and banished Polyneices from Thebes.

46 Polyneices Retaliates
Polyneices went to the city of Argos and acquired the aid of the Argive armies. Seven armies with seven chieftains returned to Thebes and attacked its gates. Because the ancestors of Thebes were related to Zeus, he assisted in the defense of Thebes by hurling thunderbolts at the Argives. The Argive armies were defeated and Thebes was victorious.

47 During the Battle Creon’s son, Menoeceus II sacrificed his life so that Thebes could win the war. Eteocles and Polyneices met face-to-face on the battlefield and mortally wounded each other. Because there were no more male heirs to the throne, Creon was once again in charge of Thebes as regent. His wife, Eurydice, became the queen.

48 Creon’s Edicts Because Eteocles was a hero who defended Thebes from its attackers, he would be buried with full funeral rites and honors. Because Polyneices was a traitor to Thebes, his body would be left on the battlefield to be eaten by dogs and vultures. Also, all of the bodies of the dead Argives would be left on the battlefield to rot. Anyone who tried to bury the body of Polyneices against Creon’s order would be put to death by stoning.

49 The Burial of the Dead All people have the right to a proper burial, as designated by the laws of the gods. The souls of the unburied are not allowed to enter Hades, and are destined to walk the earth in torment. Burial would include the application of sacred oils to cleanse the body, a casting of earth upon the body, and cremation upon a pyre. One of the worst disgraces a person could suffer would be to remain unburied.

50 And so the play Antigone begins
The Characters Creon: acting King of Thebes Eurydice: his wife Haemon: their son, and fiancé of Antigone Antigone and Ismene: the daughters of Oedipus The Chorus and Leader: represent the voices of the citizens of Thebes and serve as advisors to Creon A Sentry: charged with guarding the body of Polyneices A Messenger Tiresias: the blind prophet of Thebes who can predict the future and interpret signs sent by the gods





55 Greek Tragedy Performed during festivals worshipping Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, rebirth Actors and playwrights competed Choral -- singing seems to have been an important part a chorus of men (varied in size form 3 to 50) -- many think the choral song -- dithyramb-- was the beginnings of Greek drama (but origins are unclear) Closely associated with religion - stories based on myth or history

56 Some believe the chorus sang, moved, danced
Most believe the chorus underscored the ideas of the play, provided point-of-view, and focused on issues of the play and implications of the action, established the play's ethical system, and participated in the action Violence and death offstage Frequent use of messengers to relate information Usually continuous time of action Usually single place Stories based on myth or history, but varied interpretations of events Focus is on psychological and ethical attributes of characters, rather than physical and sociological.

57 Greek Masks A Greek mask is a kind of mask used to conceal an actor's or actress' face during a Greek theater performance. This practice is extremely useful for the following reasons: There were times when a single actor or actress had to play more than one character in the script. This was easily achieved through the use of masks instead of superfluous and over-the-top makeup. During those times, women were forbidden from participating in theater roles. Greek masks helped conceal the men's faces while they played the female parts, suspending disbelief. There was a theory that masks helped accentuate the actor's or actress' voice during a stage performance. This is yet to be proven though.

58 Examples of Tragic Masks

59 The Elements of Greek Tragedy
Tragedy is meant to reaffirm the fact that life is worth living, regardless of the suffering or pain that is part of human existence. Tragedies are about people in conflict with the universe. Tragedies are always about spiritual or philosophical conflicts, never about every day events. Tragic actions arise from a character's inner conflict. Do not confuse the concept of Greek Tragedy with the modern use of the word “tragic,” which is often used to describe events that we think of as being sad or unfortunate. Although characters may die in Greek Tragedies, the tragedy arises from the protagonist’s poor choices which result from his tragic flaw.

60 Catharsis The protagonist's actions should arouse feelings of both pity and fear in the audience. Pity because the protagonist is better than we are, so we place ourselves into his position (empathy) Fear because we too do not know our future or fate. By the end of the play, the audience should be purged of pity and fear, so they go through a catharsis. Catharsis = purgation of pity and fear    

61 The Greek Tragic Hero Is an uncommon man who possesses the greatness to battle his own destiny. A tragic protagonist must have magnitude; his struggles are great because he is important to society. Is a basically good and noble person who causes his own downfall, and possibly that of others around him, because of a tragic flaw. He usually suffers from hubris (Pride) as shown through hamartia (character flaw or error in judgment). He suffers from a reversal of fortune or fall from high to low. He suffers a loss of dignity, as well as suffering caused by the loss of loved ones. He can never escape his fate, but he will insist upon accepting fate on his own terms. He must face the world alone.

62 Hubris The predominant type of tragic flaw.
An exaggerated sense of pride or self-confidence, often accompanied by stubbornness and the refusal to listen to the reason of others. Placing oneself in a position of superiority over other. Hubris results in a tragic end or punishment.

63 Predetermined Fate Each individual is born with a fate that is determined by the gods at birth. One’s fate cannot be changed or avoided. Each person is given a personal allotment of unavoidable suffering. The suffering is not necessarily tragic, but is to be accepted as part of life.

64 Freedom of Will and Action
Each person is expected to accept his fate and fulfill it with dignity. Those who accept their fates should suffer no more than their allotted amount of suffering. The misuse of freedom to try to change one’s fate may result in additional suffering.

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