Openings in Greek Tragedy


Oedipus the King


  • Oedipus outside of his palace - sense of power and regal authority
  • "Oh my children" - How he views the chorus/audience/Thebes
  • "The world knows my fame: I am Oedipus" - Confident in his own abilities as saviour from the Sphinx
  • Priest confirms that the city is 'dying' due to plague
  • "You cannot equal the Gods" - Oedipus' hubristic sense of majesty
  • Oedipus has sent Creon to the Delphi Oracle to learn how he can 'save our city' - inclusive pronoun?
  • Creon's message: "Drive the corruption from your land (...) root it out!" - DRAMATIC IRONY
  • Brings about the murder of Laius - Oedipus is outraged by their lack of finding the murderers - is he scared about regicide?
  • Dramatic Irony: "whoever kill the king may decide to kill me too, with the same violent hand"
  • The palace at night - Females outside the house should not be there: thus showing unsettling nature of both Antigone and Ismene
  • "My own flesh and blood" - Importance of family stated by the first line of the play and of Antigone's dialogue
  • "A double blow" - Ismene and Antigone have lost both Polynikes and Etoecles, lack of family.
  • Lack of burial has 'disgraced' their family - importance of Burial in the Greek World and woman's job to do the burying, stripped off a sense of kleos
  • "Stoning to death inside the city walls" - Antigone has heard Creon's edict of anyone that tries to bury the body - does it anyway!
  • Link to the doomed line of Oedipus - 'reputation in ruins'
  • Ismene is aware of the consequences and the importance of family as she knows that they are 'left so alone'
  • "Remember we are women, we're not born to content with men" - Ismene is the archetypal Greek woman
  • Antigone wants Kleos - "Even if I die in the act, the death will be a glory" and "Dear God, shout it from the rooftops"
  • Antigone's pride makes her 'hate' the only remaining immediate family she has!



  • Starts with a lower class character on stage - typical to Euripides plays
  • Nurse acts as expositional device for the Medea/Jason myth.
  • "Her heart unhinged" - Was Medea crazed in love from the very start for Jason?
  • Signifies the importance of 'oaths' through the Nurse's voice of Medea
  • Foreshadows the ending - "she hates her children"
  • Tutor enters with children; mentions Creon's intentions
  • Nurse states her opinion about Jason. Interesting because she is inferior but it willing to voice a negative outlook. "Curse him - but no, he is my master"
  • Medea cries and sings off stage showing how 'wretched' she is - an impression of anguish from her initial portrayal
  • Medea even curses her children off stage! Foreshadowing - "May you die with your father"
  • Nurse acts as a motherly figure to the children, "how I grieve for you in my fear that some suffering may await you"
  • Chorus enter with Medea still chanting off stage - big reveal later on?
  • Aphrodite enters on the Skene - typical to Greek theatre. However, it was typical that a lower class character introduced the prologue in Euripides' plays. Surprising perception
  • "Those who are arrogant to me, I cast down" - Sets up Hippolytus to have this characteristic before we even meet him
  • "He spends all of him time (...) with the virgin goddess" - Is she jealous of Hippolytus' relationship with Artemis even if it is a platonic one?
  • Takes 'revenge' on Hippolytus just as Artemis will take 'revenge' upon one of Aphrodite's favourites later in the play
  • Establishes exposition - Theseus' exile (key theme of Miasma) and sets up her meddling in Phaedra's life
  • She says that she will reveal to Theseus of Phaedra's lust - but she doesn't! Inconsistencies in her character/plot
  • Phaedra 'must die' - FATED! Key theme
  • Aphrodite is selfish, Phaedra's life is a 'secondary consideration' to her
  • Hippolytus enters with a chorus of servants and garlands the statue of Artemis but not Aphrodite - hubris
  • Hippolytus' lengthy monologue about the importance of virginity - "it is not proper for base men to do so" - to not respect chastity - Unsettling? Still a boy!
  • Servant has to prompt him about his hubris and Hippolytus cements his hubris by believing that he needs to 'greet her from a distance' and no god who uses the night to work her wonders finds favour with me."


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