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Oedipus Rex and Ancient Greek Theater

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1 Oedipus Rex and Ancient Greek Theater
Sophocles and Athenian Society Maps of Ancient Greece Origins of Greek Drama The Role of the Chorus Ancient Greek Theaters Stichomythic Dialogue

2 Sophocles (497 or 496 to 406 B.C.) Sophocles was born in Athens.
Sophocles was the best-known ancient Greek playwright. While Sophocles was a member of the ruling class, he was aware of the social inequalities in Athenian society. Sophocles used his plays to warn his fellow Athenians of “divine retribution” for social injustice. Sophocles explored the fate-freewill dichotomy in his plays. While humans eventually have to face the consequences of their decisions and actions, freewill was not more powerful than fate or destiny. In fact, one’s freewill could actually work toward fulfilling fate!

3 Mt. Olympus Pisa


5 Origins of Greek Drama Sixth Century B.C. Fifth Century B.C.
Thespis essentially invented acting by stepping in front of the chorus and performing a solo. Thespian has come to mean actor. Fifth Century B.C. Each year plays were performed in an annual competition to honor Dionysus (Bacchus). Each playwright wrote three tragedies and a satyr-play (a farce for comic relief) for the competition. Sophocles won twenty of these competitions. Sophocles introduced the third actor on stage. (Aeschylus introduced the use of the second actor on stage.) Sophocles Theban plays, while often anthologized together, were actually not originally written as a trilogy. In fact, Antigone was written first, Oedipus Rex was written second, and Oedipus at Colonus was written last.

6 The chorus . . . Group of 15 men who sang lyric poetry and danced to music Unpaid and drawn from the citizenry at large Considered a civic duty Costumed in light masks and the dress of the people Link between audience and actors Served as the “ideal spectator,” responding to the play as the playwright intended. Functioned as the conscience of the people, establishing an ethical perspective from which to view the play Reflected upon what had happened and foreshadowed what was to come Questioned, made requests of, and at times advised the central characters Helped to establish mood and heighten dramatic moments Helped to establish pacing Provided tension release Separated the scenes Performed in song with a back-and-forth movement that heightened the emotion of the performance Strophe (left to right) Antistrophe (right to left) Epode A character or characters onstage interacted with the Chorus through a song, the kommos, or through a leader or spokesperson, the Choragos, who would step forth from the Chorus to become a character on stage.



9 Stichomythic dialogue (stichomythia): Alternating individual lines of verse between two speakers
A technique used to provide contrast to long speeches A technique used to present thesis and antithesis, questions and answer, argument and refutation. A technique that allowed playwrights to distinguish for the audience one masked actor from another A technique used to heighten the drama Usually occurs at moments of high tension Usually structured in parallel lines of verse Sometimes structured using antilabe

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