Oedipus the King: Introduction

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  • Created by: Bormerod
  • Created on: 12-10-15 20:34
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  • Oedipus the King (Introduction)
    • An Athenian mystery play
      • A sacrifice that purges the community of its collective guilt by punishing a scapegoat
    • No supernatural events
      • No gods or monsters
      • Although destiny, fate and the will of the gods are prominant
    • Plot
      • Oedipus tried to avoid the fulfillment of a prophecy of Apollo, believed he had succeeded, & cast scorn on all the oracles, only to find out that he had fulfilled that prophecy long ago
        • urgent contemporary significance
          • if the case for divine foreknowledge could be successfully demoplished, the whole traditional religious edifice went down with it.  If the God's did not know the future, they did not know more than man
      • The hero is his own destroyer; he is the detective who tracks down & identifies the criminal - who turns out to be himself
    • Athenians were very familiar with plague
    • Oedipus was the epitome of Athenian character as they perceived it
      • A man of swift & vigorous action
      • A man of experience
      • A courageous man
      • His characteristics rose to their greatest heights when the situation seemed most desperate
      • Used a combination of the most courageous action & rational discussion of their plans
    • Sophocles was writing at the time of the birth of historical spirit
      • Understanding of a steady progress from primitive barbarism to the high civilization of the city-state
      • Speeches representative of the first decisisve steps that brought man from nomadic savagery to settled, stable culture, made him master of the land and sea and the creatures inhabiting them
      • Oedipus is the investigator, prosecutor & judge of a murderer
        • represents the social & intellectual progress that had resulted in the establishment of Athenian democracy
      • Oedipus represents the techniques of transition from savagery to civilization and the political achievements of the newly settled society, but also the temper and methods of the 5th century intellectual revolution
        • He is a symbol of mathematics &* medicine
          • "One can't equal many"
        • He is represented as a physician
          • The city suffers from disease, & Oedipus os the person that the city turns to for a cure
            • the plowman sows and reaps a fearful harvest, the investigator finds the criminal & the judge convicts him - they are all the same man - the revealer turns into the thing he revealed, the finder into the thing he found, the calculator finds he is himself the solution of the equation and the physician discovers that he is the diease
              • He is not the measure of all things, but the thing measured & found wanting
    • Fate & free will - this basic theme has often been discounted
      • the idea of the opposition of fate and free will wasn't explicitly formulated until much later than Sophocles' time
      • A man is responsible for those actions which are performed under constraitn, which are the expression of his free will
        • idea of a dog tied to a moving cart
      • there is a contradiction between our free will & God's foreknowledge
      • Oder & pattern: no freedom, rigidly determined succession of events in time Vs. Freedom: bithing is predictable, no pattern, everything happens by blind chance
        • We want both freedom of will & the assurance of order and meaning
        • Jocatsa thought there was no design in the world & that dreams and prophecies had no validity, when she realized that design was there, she hanged herself
      • In a paly, the hero's will must be free & must have some casual conection with his suffering
        • The plot consists of the discovery of his actions & the discovery that it is entirely due to his own actions
      • If it had niot been for Oedipus, the truth would not have been discovered at that point in time
      • In the play, human freedom os represented as mockery
      • Oedipus had there freedom to find out or not find out the truth
        • He makes full use of theis freedom
        • His search for the truth is a heroic example iof a man's dedication  to search for the truth - his only freedom - but there is no freedom more noble
    • At the beginning of the play, Oedipus is mocking Tiresias for his blindness, but Oedipus ends up blind himself


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