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Sophocles 'Oedipus the King'

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Victoria Wohl

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CLA232 Men, Gods, BeastsWednesday January 19th 2011
Sophocles Oedipus the King
Oedipus wants answers
The first question he asks is the cause of the plague asks the Gods through the
oracle at Delphi
Sends his brother-in-law Creon to ask
The answer: there is a pollution in the land and a murderer
Greek belief that if your murdered someone pollution would spread until the
murderer is caught
Lose track of the murderer because they were distracted by the sphinx
One of the things this play does it stage a kind of court case
One of the questions is… who killed the king?
The play is structured almost like a murder mystery
Context: Athenian Theatre
Especially: theatre as suspension of reality
5th century Athenian Playwrights
Sophocles (Oedipus the King)
Euripides (Bacchants, Medea, Cyclops)
Aristophanes (Lysistrata, Wasps, Clouds)
The City Dionysia
Pisistratus 534 BCE
An annual festival, held on the slope of the acropolis

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CLA232 Men, Gods, BeastsWednesday January 19
th 2011
Sophocles Oedipus the King
Full day event, multiple plays in a row
A civic festival, governed by the people
So, there was a council of people who got to decide which playwrights would be
allowed to perform and who would be the Choregos (aristocrat in charge of the
Some of the money also came from the city, even subsidizing tickets for poorer
citizens could afford to take a day off of work
Wasnt just entertainment it was also a competition
Certain people were allowed to vote who they thought was the best playwright at the
end of the festival
One of the perplexing questions about Greek drama is who got to sit in the audience
We know there were adult male citizens
Where things get uncertain is regarding non-citizens, women, and slaves
All of the actors in ancient Greece were male
All roles were played with masks… always less actors than the total number of
characters (actors played multiple roles)
Genre-specific boots Cothurnus (Buskin)
The events that were portrayed on stage were almost always based on myths, taking
place in a different reality
Thus, you could perform plays that didnt necessarily reflect contemporary Athens (a
monarchy instead of democracy, etc.)
The gods: Dionysus vs. Apollo
Associated with madness, wine, theatre, fertility, sexuality, non-Greek East
The embodiment of the opposite (effeminate, excessive, doesnt think things through,
etc.) all things that Greeks arent
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