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Background for Oedipus rex A greek play by Sophocles

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1 Background for Oedipus rex A greek play by Sophocles
Greek Drama Background for Oedipus rex A greek play by Sophocles

2 The Basics Greek drama occurred during the “Golden Age” of Greece: 500 to 300 B.C.E Tragedies were produced as part of a religious festival for Dionysus (god of wine , fertility, and Theater) every year in Athens. Awards were given to the playwright who presented the best series of three dramas (we still have festivals like this! Sundance Film Festival, for example)

3 The Festival of Dionysus (Dionysia)
A festival thrown every year in Athens, Greece to honor one of their favorite Gods Dionysus: God of Wine and Theatrical Performances.

4 Civic Duty It was every citizen’s CIVIC DUTY to attend the festival.
Everything shut down for 5 days Playwrights would write tragedies and compete every year to claim a prize. 3 playwrights would compete each year.

5 Civic Duty: Catharsis It was believed that people became sick because they had “bad emotions” stuck in their bodies and it “poisoned” their blood and made them sick. Citizens had to “purge” these bad emotions: Fear Anxiety Anger

6 Civic Duty: Catharsis Citizens could safely cleanse or “purge” these bad emotions at a play by feeling sad, angry, etc and letting everything go. Part of their Health Care.

7 Catharsis


9 Greek Tragedy Involves intense emotion, a horrible truth that leads to catharsis – the cleansing or getting rid of bad emptions The tragic flaw is also called hamartia, the error in judgment or the critical mistake Hubris=excessive pride (sound familiar?)

10 Greek comedy vs. Tragedy
Comedies Always involves a happy ending where things are resolved tragedies always have a very sad ending

11 The tragic Hero Oedipus is our tragic heroes – we feel sorry for him because he suffers The tragic hero usually ends in death or destruction (He is virtually unrecognizable.)

12 Dramatic irony One of the most important elements in this play is dramatic irony – where the audience knows something that the characters don’t Watch for this as we read! (Irony is a contrast between what is expected, and what actually happens)

13 So Who is this Sophocles guy?
Sophocles was one of 3 great Greek tragic playwrights (b. 496 B.C.) Wrote over 100 plays Awarded first prize about 20 times…never lower than second place First to add a third actor to cast

14 Quick notes on oedipus rex
First in a series of three plays (Antigone & Oedipus at colonus) Takes place in Thebes (greece) depict the curse of Oedipus Sophocles did not come up with the story on his own, it was an ancient greek myth

15 Oedipus Cast Oedipus (King) Jocasta (wife)
Tiresias (prophet) Creon (brother) Senators Messenger Old man

16 Structure of Greek Tragedy and the Role of the Chorus
What you need to know when reading Oedipus Rex

17 The awesome amphitheater

18 Plays were performed in HUGE outdoor amphitheatres that could seat 40,000 people (Yankee Stadium seats 52, 325) No microphones! But you can hear a penny drop from all the way at the top!

19 Cast And action All actors were men. They wore masks to depict which characters they were. There were no scene changes (no backstage!) The audience knew the story ahead of time. The emotion of the characters was what they came to see. Violent action took place offstage (I.e. audience had to imagine it). Messengers then told the audience what happened.

20 Unity of Time, Place, and Action
Greek plays were much different from the films we are used to: The unity of action: Play follows one main storyline with no or few subplots. The unity of place: play occurs in a single place and does not change setting (the stage represents one place) The unity of time: the action in a play should take place over no more than 24 hours.

21 So what is the chorus? The chorus was a group of men who sang and danced during the plays. They often represent the community’s thoughts but not necessarily the poet’s thoughts. In Oedipus Rex, the chorus is made of senators – wise old guys!

22 Chorus

23 Chorus

24 The Role of the Chorus To set the mood of the play and tell us the themes To interpret the action in relation to the law of the state and the law of the Olympian gods To divide the action and offer reflection on events To give background information (Think of it like you have all your grandparents, aunts, and uncles sitting around commenting on your life)

25 Structure of Tragedy A Greek Tragedy alternates between odes and episodes It goes: Ode-->Episode-->Ode-->Episode-->Ode….you get it Odes are songs sung by the chorus to comment on the action Episodes are when characters talk together (Dialogue)

26 In more detail… Prologue: The first part of the play that give background information. Strophe: Chorus sings while walking Right to Left Antistrophe: Chorus sings while walking Left to Right Choral Ode: At the end of each episode, the other characters leave the stage and the chorus sings!

27 The End Exodos: At the end of play, the chorus exits singing a processional song which usually offers words of wisdom related to the actions and outcome of the play. This is the “moral” of the story where the chorus tells us what we were have supposed to learn from the characters

28 Oedipus Rex = Tragic Hero
“Man of high standard who falls from that high because of a flaw that has affected many” - Aristotle

29 The Tragic Hero A dynamic (round) character others respect and admire
Nearly perfect

30 Tragic Flaw Error brings hero down Reversal of fortune
Should I kill him NOW? Tragic Flaw The hero is nearly perfect- Has one weakness Error in Judgment Critical Mistake (hamartia) Error brings hero down Reversal of fortune

31 Catharsis Audience’s purging of emotions through pity and fear. The spectator is purged as a result of watching the hero fall.

32 The Oedipus Family Tree
More Like the Family Stick!

33 King Oedipus married Queen Jocasta (his mother-ewww!)
They had 4 children (Eww): -Eteocles -Antigone -Polynices -Ismene / / Sons Daughters (O’s brothers?) (O’s sisters?) Fight for Thebes Go back to Thebes Cursed by dying Father - Kill each other

34 Exit Slip! What is dramatic irony? Who is our tragic hero?
What is Hubris? what is catharsis? What is hamartia?

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