Presentation on theme: "Critical Casebook: Sophocles"— Presentation transcript:
1 Critical Casebook: Sophocles Theater of Dionysus, Athens, Greece
2 Overview The Theater of Sophocles Staging The Civic Role of Greek DramaAristotle’s Concept of TragedySophocles the ManThe Origins of Oedipus the KingSketch of Dionysus TheaterQuestions for Oedipus the King
3 The Theater of Sophocles Plays both a religious and civic occasionPresented only twice a year at religious festivals honoring the god of wine and crops, DionysusComedies were performed in January at the Lenaea festival, the festival of the winepressMajor theatrical event took place in March at the Great Dionysus; city-wide celebration that included sacrifices, prize ceremonies, spectacular processions, and three days of drama
4 The Theater of Sophocles Each day a different author presented a trilogy of tragic playsPortrayed some mythic or legendary eventAll interrelatedFollowed by a satyr play, an obscene parody of a mythic story, performed with chorus dressed as satyrs, or unruly mythic attendants of Dionysus
5 The Theater of Sophocles Greeks loved competition: plays were no exceptionPanel of five judges voted on best playAll plays were written in verseSubstantial cash prize given to winnerSophocles did not win for Oedipus Rex
6 Staging As many as 17,000 spectators could watch a performance Audience arranged in rowsAthenian governing council and military cadets seated in middle rowsPerformance space was divided into two parts: the orchestra, a level circular dancing space found at the base, and slightly raised stage built in front of a skene for costume changes
7 Staging Actors performed primarily on stage Chorus danced and sang in the orchestraSkene served as backdropSkene had a large door that served as a grand entrance for principal charactersAlso used to present tableauNo more than three actors were allowed on stage at any time
8 Staging The chorus was made up of fifteen people, fixed by Sophocles Actors spoken monologue alternated with the chorus’ singing and dancingTragedy began with a prologue, or preparatory sceneNext came the parados, or song for the entrance of the chorusAction was enacted in episodes, or acts
9 Staging Episodes were separated by danced choral songs or odes The finale was a closing exodus in which the chorus and actors concluded the action and partedThe actors wore masks (personae) which at times were very exaggeratedRepresentative of charactersTo increase dignity and visibility, actors wore cothurni, or high, thick soled elevator shoes
10 The Civic Role of Greek Drama View of the Acropolis
11 The Civic Role of Greek Drama Athenian drama was financed by the stateAdministration of Great Dionysia fell to the head civil magistrateHe annually appointed three choregoi, or producersProducer had to equip the chorus and rent the rehearsal spaceState covered expenses of the theater, actors, and prizes
12 The Civic Role of Greek Drama Theater tickets were distributed free to citizens; everyone could participateTheater could hold about half of Athens citizensPoet’s role was the improvement of the polis, or city-state
13 The Civic Role of Greek Drama City states sponsored competition between rhapsodes, or public poetry performersTheater balanced heroism within Homeric epics with the cooperation and compromise necessary for democracyChallenged audience to feel sympathy for vanquished enemyExplored problems of the politically powerless
14 The Civic Role of Greek Drama Some plays depicted men’s toils with womenOthers depicted powerful men undone by their own hubris, or judgmentCalled for audience to place themselves in the shoes of people very unlike themselvesMeant to enlarge human empathyMale actors took on principal rolesChorus many times was made up of female slaves or captivesPlato hated the idea of men playing irrational, jealous, grief-stricken, vengeful
15 Aristotle’s Concept of Tragedy Tragedy is an imitation of an action of high importance, complete and of some amplitude, in language enhanced by distinct and varying beauties; acted not narrated; by means of pity and fear effecting its purgation of these emotions.---Aristotle, Poetics, Chapter6
16 Aristotle’s Concept of Tragedy Protagonist is someone of high estateProtagonist must fall from power and happinessThis heightens the calamity of his fall and gives him a place of dignity to fall fromThough protagonist is powerful, is not necessarily without griefThe tragic hero is fallible
17 Aristotle’s Concept of Tragedy His fall is a result of his hamartia, or tragic flawEvery tragic hero has a weakness, or hubrisFlaw and downfall follow his natureDownfall results from actions he is responsible forAudience should feel a sense of purgation, or katharsis, of emotions
18 Aristotle’s Concept of Tragedy The tragic hero has a moment of recognition, or anagnorisis, or some revelation of some fact not known before or some true identityThe action of the tragic hero turns out to have the opposite effect of the one intended, or reversal (peripeteia)Audience may delight in seeing tragic character humbled, but also may feel the punishment does not fit the crime (indifferent universe)
19 Sophocles the Man Lived (496-406 B.C.) Tragic dramatist, priest, Athenian generalLived to see his native city-state in decline after the Peloponnesian WarOedipus the King, his most famous play, is believed to have been produced five years after the plague in Athens
20 The Origins of Oedipus the King First of the three Theban playsCan be translated as Clubfoot the RulerAlso called Oedipus Tyrannos to distinguish it from his last play, Oedipus at ColonusOedipus is derived from the word oida, which means “to see”Oedipus also means “swollen foot”Tyrannos is a term for anyone who gains power without the help of others
22 Oedipus Rex QuestionsHow explicitly does the prophet Teiresias reveal the guilt of Oedipus? Does it seem to you stupidity on the part of Oedipus or a defect in Sophocles’ play that the king takes so long to recognize his guilt and to admit to it?How does Oedipus exhibit weakness of character? Point to the lines that reveal him as imperfectly noble in his words, deeds, or treatment of others.
23 Questions3. “Oedipus is punished not for and fault in himself, but for his ignorance. Not knowing his family history, unable to recognize his parents on sight, he is blameless, and in slaying his father and marrying his mother, he behaves as any sensible persons might behave in the same circumstances”. Do you agree with this interpretation?
24 Questions4. Besides the predictions of Teiresias, what other foreshadowings of the shepherd’s revelation does the play contain? 5. Consider the character of Iocaste. Is she a flat character---a generalized queen character---or an individual with distinctive traits of personality? Provide evidence from the text.
25 Questions6. What is dramatic irony? What examples do you find in the play? Do they contribute to the effectiveness of the play? Explain. 7. Violence in the play occurs offstage. Of what advantage or disadvantage to the play is this limitation? 8. For what reason does Oedipus blind himself? What meaning, if any, do you find in his choice of instrument?
26 Questions9. What are your feelings towards him as the play ends? Justify your answer. 10. How well does Freud explain why the play moves you? Explain. 11. With what attitude toward the gods does the play leave you? By inflicting the plague on Thebes, by causing barrenness, by cursing both the people and their king, do the gods seem cruel, unjust, or tyrannical? Does the play show any reverence towards them? 12. Does the play end in total gloom? Explain.