Monday October 1, 2012 – DRAMA LECTURE
How do we make sense of the experiences in the play?
How people make an entrance or an exit is as significant as what they say. Silence can
also be as significant as particular words. At beginning of scene with Tiresias, Oedipus
talks and talks and talks -> shows relative power in scene (what characters think they
know and what they know). At beginning of scene, Tiresias talks in riddles. He mocks
Oedipus for his inability to understand the most basic riddle of all (who he really is).
Much of scene is framed in paradoxical idea of riddles as such. Oedipus gained throne of
Thebes because he was the only man with intellectual power to solve the riddle of the
sphinx, but Tiresias was unable to solve it. At end of scene, Oedipus is in silence because
he can’t make sense of what Tiresias has said. Entrances and exits frame the action we
see on the stage. The play is made of riddles -> Oedipus always tries to make sense of
riddles of everyone who comes on stage. Sophocles uses chorus to represent us
(community) on stage. Greek tragedy = communal art form. The community is brought
Chorus shows play isn’t about a person (Oedipus), it’s about the city. Chorus brings
characters back to reason. Play = seeking action, chorus shares in the seeking action. It is
the function of the chorus to mark the stages of action as the play goes along. The text
themselves mark a lot of the action.
There are references throughout play about seeing, steady gazes, turning away. Oedipus
laments the fact that he seeked the truth about his origin. Oedipus approaches the truth
with a full face however -> there is something compelling about such a strong character.
There are also references to physical challenges in play -> Oedipus is ready to resort to
torture to discover the truth -> we see the strength of Oedipus’ will.
The body is very important in the play. There is a continual set of references to touch.
Why is touch important? In this city, people are sick, polluted, there is the plague.
Oedipus is a polluted man, polluted by 2 most heinous crimes (patricide and incest) ->
taboos that make a man unclean. People who have any contact with a polluted man may
be infected. There is little or no touching at beginning of play (ex: Oedipus won’t touch
Tiresias), but Iocaste has already been touched by seer. At end of play, Oedipus begs
soldiers to take him away. He also begs Creon and his children to take his hand/to touch
them. Oedipus begs Creon to touch him as a token of his agreement to take care of his
family. In a play that is so dignified and severe, the touching of the final scene is a blind
man’s only contact in a world where he is no longer in command. Oedipus can no longer
control his own destiny -> he has to be led by Creon. Oedipus cannot escape from place
where he has blinded himself or where Iocaste has killed herself (in another play he will
be sent away).
We have a conflict between Oedipus and Tiresias and another conflict between Oedipus
and Creon. Oedipus always crosses boundaries, always crosses thresholds. Creon is
interested in form, in boundaries. Creon wants to take things inside.
Creon = moderate man while Oedipus is extreme. Creon claims that he only wishes to be
let in peace. We have an opposition between the 2 characters. Similar to differences
between Apollo and Dionysus -> in Greek culture there is an opposition between the ideas of mere appearance with Apollo, the beautiful illusion of the dream world (=Creon)
and the excess of Dionysus (=Oedipus). With Dionysus, boundaries come down. In
Oedipus and Creon, we have a set of oppositions that are crucial to the play -> individual
vs. community, reality vs. appearance. We can’t have one or the other we have both and
they are in contradiction. Dismemberment of existing structure vs. the maintenance of
Around 408 BCE, at age of 70, Euripides left Athens for voluntary exile and stayed in
Macedonia. His last/greatest play the Bacchae takes us back to the founding myth of the
theatre itself. The Bacchae was performed during the Dionysian festivals. The Bacchae
tells the story of the invasion of Greece. Play is very rich and complex. Play is very
ironic. Pentheus dies as a scapegoat. The word tragedy comes from “song of the
sacrificial goat”. Pentheus is going to have to be sacrificed for the good of the city. He is
a living substitute for the god he rejects (Dionysus). This play was acted out in the theatre
of Dionysus. Dionysus is the child of Thebes, he returns home to his place of birth to
assert his identity and to claim his patrimony. Dionysus is a God, the son of Zeus and a
mortal woman. It is his honor that he is playing. Origins are confused, we have problems
of legitimacy. The king of the city (Pentheus) comes to discover the limits of his own
identity. We discov