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Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

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1 Sophocles’ Oedipus the King
Sophocles’ Oedipus the King “Know Thyself!” — If you Dare! In the third stasimon of soph’s OTK, on p. 233 of the Penguin edition, the chorus sings: “… is there a man on earth who seizes more joy than just a dream, a vision? … you are my great example, you, your life your destiny oedipus, man of misery – I count no man blest.” “I count no man blest,” says the chorus, and they cite oed as proof. so what does that mean? how does oed prove that human existence generally is tragic? because most of us, I suspect, would think that oed’s situation – killed his father, slept with his mother – differs from common experience. though most of us might agree that oed’s situation is really, really, tragic, most would think that’s because it’s really, really sad – kind of creepy, really. hence the journal question I posed: how is this play, how is this character tragic? because it’s uncommonly sad? or for some other reason, for instance, because it’s expressive of the human condition, as the play itself would seem to suggest? and if the latter, how does that work? all of which is meant to advance the project we started with a little further. what is tragic? is there something universal about tragedy? is tragedy particular to individual contexts? so, not just what is tragedy, but what is greek tragedy? Theater at Epidaurus Sophocles in old age CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

2 Sophocles Oedipus the King
Agenda Discussion Sophocles’ OTK as “Greek” Tragedy Discussion Continuation (last class) Is Eumenides Tragedy? Sophocles’ OTK An Introduction Tragic Transformations Eros, Tyrants, hubris, Knowledge in OTK 9-Mar-15 Sophocles Oedipus the King CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

3 Discussion Sophocles’ OTK as “Greek” Tragedy 1-13-99
Aristotle in his Poetics clearly holds Sophocles' Oedipus the King (which Aristotle mostly refers to simply as Oedipus) in high esteem. I.e., he cites it as exemplary not just of how tragedy works, but how it should work, as in the following: The plot in fact should be so framed that, even without seeing the things take place, he who simply hears the account of them shall be filled with horror and pity at the incidents; which is just the effect that the mere recital of the story in Oedipus would have on one. (p. 16) I'd like you to think critically (note italics) through Aristotle's take on the OK as tragedy. How does Ari get it rigtht? How does his approach need supplementing — if it needs supplementing? What other perspectives discussed in class, what perspectives not discussed in class, can be brought to bear for this play? Discussion Sophocles’ OTK as “Greek” Tragedy CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

4 Sophocles Oedipus the King
Question Breakdown… OTK “tragic” in usual sense? “We’ve suffered a tragic loss” “Tragedy hit when…” Does OTK go beyond that? “Greek tragedy is” … what? “You are my great example, you, your life | your destiny Oedipus, man of misery — | I count no man blest.” (Chorus, p. 233) 9-Mar-15 Sophocles Oedipus the King

5 OTK: Tragic Structures?
Formula, etc. Koros Hubris Atē Dikē Aeschylean progression Verbal  visual Ambiguous  clear Human  divine Cycle of violence? Knowledge through suffering? Aristotelian patterns Character-based motivation (ēthos)? Hamartia? Complex plot? Recognition? Reversal? Pity? Fear Catharsis? “Pride (hubris) breeds the tyrant” (Chorus, OTK p. 209)

6 Discussion Continuation (last class)
4/12/2017 Discussion Continuation (last class) Is Eumenides Tragedy? bacchae 2

7 Is Eumenides tragedy? Is Oresteia tragedy? What is tragedy?
clas215 4/12/2017 Is Eumenides tragedy? Is Oresteia tragedy? What is tragedy? bacchae 2

8 Sophocles’ OTK An Introduction CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

9 Sophocles, “Theban Plays”
Sophocles, “Theban Plays” Playwright ca. 496-ca. 406 BCE first victory 468 Plays Antigone, ca. 441 Oedipus the King, after 429 Oedipus at Colonus, ca. 406 Sophocles 9-Mar-15 Sophocles Oedipus the King CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

10 Oedipus Family, Backstory
Oedipus Family, Backstory Oedipus Jocasta Polynices Eteocles Ismene Antigone Menoeceus Creon Eurydice Megareus Haemon Labdacus Laius Polydorus Cadmus blood-guilt, plague CORRUPTION: oracle to creon: drive the corruption from the land” (164) again: blood-guilt/pollution/purification theme – here, conflation of pollution with guilt oracle “Drive the corruption from the land, / don’t harbor it any longer, past all cure, / don’t nurse it in your soil – root it out!” (164) cr understands that as "pay the killers [of laius] back“ (164) 9-Mar-15 Sophocles Oedipus the King CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

11 Historical Backdrop: Peloponnesian War
Athens versus Sparta Athenian allies Spartan allies Greeks PLAGUE ITSELF vividly described in the parodos – “thebes is dying” in parodos, the “god of death” proves to be none other than the god of war, Ares now, it will be difficult to argue for wide ranging and close correspondences between the dramatic reality and the war and plague athens is currently experiencing but thematic resonance is highly suggestive if we allow ourselves to read “athens” for the play’s “thebes” so pericles, the great leader of athens in thuc history, at a key moment declares to his fellow citizens that the city: ὡς τυραννίδα γὰρ ἤδη ἔχετε αὐτήν, ἣν λαβεῖν μὲν ἄδικον δοκεῖ εἶναι, ἀφεῖναι δὲ ἐπικίνδυνον and the chorus in ok: 872 Ὕβρις φυτεύει τύραννον we shall talk more about a possibly twisted aspect to themes of eros, tyranny, and pollution in ok. for now, we can at least consider the possibility that connections between these themes could have been a way for the audience of sophocles’ play to think about its action as a critical reflection on their own imperial-tyrannical democracy. Athens Sparta 431 Outbreak of war. Great plague of Athens. 404 Athens defeated, its empire destroyed.

12 OTK Analysis prologue 15 ff. parodos 168 ff. 1st episode 171 ff.
OTK Analysis prologue 15 ff. Oed, priest, Creon. plague, oracle parodos 168 ff. divine invocation. war on plague 1st episode 171 ff. Oed, Tiresias. agōn 1 1st stasimon 186 f. who the killer? 2nd episode 188 ff. Cr, Oed. agōn 2 1st kommos (197 ff.) Chorus, J, Oed Comparison of oracles 2nd stasimon 209 f. pride breeds the tyrant 3rd episode 211 ff. J, Corinthian messenger, Oed. Polybus dead. Oed “child of fortune” 3rd stasimon 224 desperate optimism 4th episode 225 ff. Oed, Shepherd, J. recognition 4th stasimon 233 f. Oed man of sorrows exodos Messenger, Oed. J’s suicide 2nd kommos (240 ff.) Chorus, Oed., Oed’s grief Oed, Creon. final arrangements PROLOGUE we find in beginning of play there’s a plague at thebes. disease has settled over the city, it’s crops, animals, and people. a healing is sought – sort of like a purification. but we also meet oedipus, “you all know me, the world knows my fame.” displays a hubristic attitude. question: where will that attitude end up? displays as well possibly patronizing attitude. “I would be blind to misery not to pity my people kneeling at my feet.” priest to oed, possibly foreshadowing? “you cannot equal the gods, / your children [paides but = subjects] know that. but we do rate you first of men….” hero-oed. they supplicate oed almost as if he were a god. with creon’s arrival we learn from creon (back from delph) the cause of the plague. murder. so tragic patterns. problem? thebes in effect punished for not punishing malefactor. the sphinx a distraction. the killer is the “heart of our corruption” (miasma – technical term for ritual pollution, what catharsis is to wash away.) oed asks how to cleanse selves. (99 oed Ποίῳ καθαρμῷ;) either by killing or by banishing killer. chorus: invocational hymn. zeus. athena. artemis. apollo. dionysus (alludes to d’s connection to thebes). describing the dead: they go “like seabirds winging west outracing the day’s fire.” EPISODE 1. oed: “you pray to the gods? let me grant your prayers.” oed’s proclamation. the killer is to reveal self and go into exile. why? at ahtens, that was often presented as a de facto option to accused killers. would distance killer from family of deceased, plus remove from athens source of pollution. even if doesn’t reveal self, still to be driven out. dramatic irony of calling curse on self if oed harbors killer. leader-oed dialogue. hints at “rumors” etc. furious foreshadowing. tir-oed. in effect, AN AGON. for tir, the horror of truth. p oed’s unseemly wrath. cf. creon in ant. oed revealed by tir as murderer and incestuous husband. so the suspense will oed, will we ever believe tir? is so how? oed blames cr. p “blind who now has eyes, beggar who now is rich” – oed’s reversal foreshadowed. STAS 1 chorus baffled. EPI 2. oed-creon. AGON. then, oed-j dialogue. j reveals the laius oracle. resonates with o’s memory of fork in road. oed now fearful. remembers drunken man’s words. recounts his and laius’ road-rage. each exhibits hubris to the other. 2ND STAS. “pride breeds the tyrant violent pride, gorging, crammed to bursting / with all that is overripe and rich with ruin.” (872–877 Υβρις φυτεύει τύραννον· ὕβρις, εἰ / πολλῶν ὑπερπλησθῇ μάταν / ἃ μὴ ᾽πίκαιρα μηδὲ συμφέροντα, / ἀκρότατα γεῖσ᾽ ἀναβᾶσ᾽ / <ἄφαρ> ἀπότομον ὤρουσεν εἰς ἀνάγκαν). the tyrant, then, as a quintessential tragic figure – in sense of awaiting doom correcting excesses. 3RD EPI j in response to corinthian news declares world ruled not by decree of gods or fate but by chance. after all the news and revelation from corinthian messenger, oed must have truth. j freaks. oed’s determination to know truth of himself just as unrelenting as the tenor of previous messages regarding the matter. is this need to know hubristic? j had been speaking oof chance. he now adopts chance as his parent. “I count myself the son of Chance, / the great goddess, giver of all good things” (p. 224). 4TH STAS. soph’s notorious pessimism. oed as exemplary of all humanity’s tragic fate. we are all oed – how? p. 233 of the Penguin edition, the chorus sings: “… is there a man on earth who seizes more joy than just a dream, a vision? … you are my great example, you, your life your destiny oedipus, man of misery – I count no man blest.” EXODOS. no waters can in fact purify house of thebes acc to 2nd messenger reporting on oed’s self-blinding, j’s suicide. “he was raging, one of the dark powers pointing the way” – that would be atē. CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

13 Tragic Transformations
Tragic Transformations Eros, Tyrants, hubris, Knowledge in OTK CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

14 Erōs and the Tyrant Eros 9-Mar-15

15 “Pride (hubris) breeds the tyrant” (Chorus, OTK p. 209)
“Many a man before you, in his dreams, has shared his mother’s bed.” (Jocasta to Oedipus, OTK p. 215) “No, I’m not the man to yearn for kingship (to become turannos, “tyrant”)” (Creon to Oedipus, p. 193) “The previous night Hippias (ex-tyrant, hopeful future tyrant of Athens) had a dream in which he slept with his mother.” (Herodotus 6.107, on Hippias’ dream the night before the Battle of Marathon, 490 BCE) j trying to discredit oracle [explain the logic of it - though Merope is still, so far as oedipus knows at this particular point, still alive] but did Greeks “take such things for shadows, nothing at all”? I would suggest they did not i am suggesting that there is a subtext here, dreams that carry meaning in a greek context, dreams that give shape both to what is desirable and what is transgressive about tyranny as greeks viewed it tyranny as presumptively hubristic Oedipal dream in … Herodotus : “The previous night Hippias had a dream in which he slept with his mother. He supposed from the dream that he would return from exile to Athens, recover his rule, and end his days an old man in his own country. Thus he reckoned from the dream” Plutarch (Caesar on eve of crossing rubicon) Suetonius (Caesar in Spain) Artemidorus On the Interpretation of Dreams Associated with tyrants with generals with politicians Equivalences mother = land. especially from an Athenian perspective (this play is for, if not exactly about, Athenians), the land is the true mother of us all. note that the Chorus imagines Oedipus child of chance as birthed and nursed by Mount Cithaeron, where he was exposed sex = conquest If nothing else, that evidence suggests an extremely close nexus between political and sexual desire, that either one could fulfill masculine fantasies of subjugation and domination. But it also seems to equate the transgressive character of maternal incest (“unlawful” in Plutarch, a “violation” [stuprum] in Suetonius) with the domination a tyrant exercises over his land or people - a power and freedom that must necessarily diminish the autonomy and dignity of free citizens - hubris. “Pride (hubris) breeds the tyrant” (Chorus, OTK p. 209) CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

16 Oedipus-pharmakos (“scapegoat”)
Oedipus-pharmakos (“scapegoat”) Oedipus, p. 244: “Quickly, for the love of god, hide me somewhere, kill me, hurl me into the sea where you can never look on me again.” pharmakos “In a ceremony that was still performed in Sophocles’ day, two scapegoats - people symbolically laden with all the troubles and pollutions of the city - were driven through the town and then ritually expelled (originally they may have been stoned to death)” (Segal Oedipus Tyrannus 65) ambiguity Burkhardt “To expel a troublemaker is an elementary group reflex …. The outcast is then also the savior to whom all are deeply indebted” “The Greek description as katharmos makes the process seem unequivocal, as if it were merely dirt which is erradicated; myth, however, points to the provocative ambivalence. It may even be the king himself who becomes the outcast: King Kodros of Athens has himself killed by the enemy while dressed as a beggar” [Oedipus et al.) “It is clearly essential that the creature to be driven out be first brought into intimate contact with the community, the city; this is the sense of the gifts of food which are constantly mentioned” Oedipus, who has killed the king and become the king, who has wed and impregnated his mother (i.e., the land), and has rendered land sterile (i.e., the mother) - who has proved self the image of hubris in voluntary and involuntary ways, becomes the choice of seer and community to expel - Oedipus the proud, the humble, the king, the bastard “child of chance,” will carry community’s impurities away with him Vernant: a structuralist “poetic justice.” the crisscrossed movements (king to beggar, sighted to blind, ignorant to knowing) express the readjustments for civil rule, expulsion of the hubristically ambitious to counteract the tyrannical dynamic 9-Mar-15 Sophocles Oedipus the King CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

17 Rite of Passage Separation Transition Incorporation
Rite of Passage Separation Transition Incorporation “rite of passage” ceremony to accompany a life-crisis, like coming of age Arnold van Gennep, Les rites de passage (Paris, 1909) 9-Mar-15 Sophocles Oedipus the King CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

18 Oedipus’ Reverse Rite of Passage
Oedipus’ Reverse Rite of Passage “I count myself the son of Chance,” (Oedipus, p. 224) anagnorisis, peripeteia, lusis all rolled into one note the transitional stage, dramatized in oed’s case as child-of-chance stage J (p. 215): What should a man fear? It’s all chance, chance rules our lives. Not a man on earth can see a day ahead, groping through the dark. Better to live at random, best we can oed p. 224: I count myself the son of Chance, the great goddess, giver of all good things — I’ll never see myself disgraced. She is my mother! And the moons have marked me out, my blood-brothers, one moon on the wane, the next moon great with power. That is my blood, my nature—I will never betray it, never fail to search and learn my birth! no one's son (son of chance, a personified abstraction) EVERYONE'S son (son of chance i.e., potentially any number of possible mothers) the universal oed, the exemplar of everyone’s voyage of self-discovery, becomes the radically accursed oed, universally abhored p “apollo, friends, Apollo – he ordained my agonies – these my pains on pains! but the hand that struck my eyes was mine.” oed declares his agency in his own punishment – a kind of reversal for the fates! sight- ignorance- incorporation blindness- knowledge- separation transition Oedipus CLA77, Andrew Scholtz

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