Lecture Notes - Aristotle's Poetics and Oedipus the King

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University of Toronto St. George
Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Alan Ackerman

Aristotles Poetics and Oedipus the King Week 1 and 2: September 13 -September 24 th Oedipus Reading Notes Pg. 93-135 - Starting near the end, Oedipus is the king, well respected and looked up to o We do rate you first of men pg. 95, line 41 - Takes place in the midst of the plague - Mention of defeating the sphinx o We taught you nothing, no skill, no extra knowledge, still you triumphed. Pg. 95, line 46-47 - Look to Oedipus for salvation find us strength, rescue! (the priest) - Priest is rising up the spirits, help us, we know you can! Rule a land of living, not a wasteland! (sense of guilt-tripping) - The king must weep with his people, feel their pain pg 95, lines 75-76 - Oedipus has sent Creon his wifes brother to Delphi Apollo the Prophets oracle to get news o He is late, foreshadows bad news, pg. 96 - Apollo says to: Drive the corruption from the land, dont harbour it any longer.. pg. 96, lines 109-111 - Example of Oedipus not knowing himself he says: Ill bring it all to light myself pg. 97, line 150 - Strong words I am the lands avenger by all rights, and Apollos champion too. Pg. 98 (154-155) - A lot of foreshadowing in the use of language - We will see our triumph or our fall pg. 98, 164 - Oedipus volunteers himself. Line 166 - How irrational Oedipus can be If I thought you would blurt out such absurdities, youd have died waiting before Id had you summoned. [pg.106, lines 494] o Oedipus is told: This day will bring your birth and you destruction line 499 - Know thyself Oedipus asks Who is my father? line 498 - Foreshadowing Blind who now has eyes, beggar who now is rich. Line 577 o Oedipus was at such a high point He was the joy of Thebes! Never will I convict my king, never in my heart. [pg.108, lines 571-572] - Mention of the gods Zeus and Apollo know, they know, the great masters of all the dark and depth of human life. [pg.108, lines 560- 561] 1 | P a g e - Oedipus says in horror: And you, his wife, Ive touched your body with these, the hands that killed your husband cover you with blood. Pg. 116, 907-908 o Let me slip from the world of men, vanish without a trace before I see myself stained with such corruption, stained to the heart. Pg. 116, 919-922 - The queen is dead. Pg. 127, 1366 she hangs herself - You, youll see no more the pain I suffered all the pain I caused! Too long you looked on the ones you never should have seen; blind to the ones you longed to see, to know! Blind from this hour on! Blind in the darkness blind! pg. 128, 1407 - Apollo, friends, Apollo he ordained my agonies these, my pains on pains! But the hand that struck my eyes was mine, mine alone no one else I did it all myself! pg. 130, 1470-1475 - How could I look my father in the eyes when I go down to death? Or mother, so abusedI have done such things to the two of them, crimes too huge for hanging. Worse yet, the sight of my children, born as they were born, how could I long to look into their eyes? No, not with these eyes of mine, never. Pg.131, 1503 - Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last. Pg. 135, 1686 th Lecture 2 September 15 2010 - What is theatre for? What is the point of theatre? - Theatre is a place of seeing root word is THEORY o Oedipus - theme of vision and blindness o What does it mean to see? What are the limitations? o What is the distinction between drama and theatre? o What is the relationship between art and life? - Tragedy means `goat song` or the sacrificial goat or scapegoat - Analogies the theatre is like a picture, has dimensions and depth, a central focus, idea of seeing - Mimesis or ``limitation`` in what we can see - Many terms are belittling what`s wrong with the theatre? o ``Stop making a scene!`` 2 | P a g e o ``Stop acting o Hes just being melodramatic o Shes just putting on a show. - Theatre presents us with bad examples o Can corrupt people o Associated with lying pretending to be someone else o Difference between make-believe and lying - Actor is the maker of something that is counterfeit however, the actor can only do so by looking at the truth - But can lead to innovation conflicting, contradictory impulses - Plato`s realm of pure ideas o Plato wants knowledge, education aka TRUE knowledge o Theatre indulges lust, violence but how do you excite rationality? o Teaches us to inflame our passions, instead of master them o Fosters the evil in us - Selection of details, where do you start? Where do you finish? - Important: Why start by reading Aristotle? o He is the centre of criticism and drama, he is used as a building block o He reflects deeply on some works that were reading in terms of historical and cultural context o His work initiates a discussion about serious thinking so we may engage in self-conscious thought th Lecture 3 September 17 2010 - Reality is a process you need to be selective about in order to represent 3 | P a g e - Definition of a definition to limit, set a BOUNDARY on meaning - Sophocles picks a key moment to begin and end he doesnt start at the beginning - What does it mean to ACT? o To take an action, to represent an action o From copying to creating - What an artist does unconsciously is also important o We dont know what Sophocles actually intended, we are using the English translation of the work which is an interpretation Key Definitions: Imitation tragedy is an imitation of an action (pg. 61) mimesis sometimes the word means simple copying bottom of page 82 - Making one more noble or more handsome - An ideal towards which the example is moving, but has not yet been achieved - Imitation is used more for creating, not copying Catharsis Greek medical term, thought to be good for us morally good for us - Where does it happen? - Plot is the soul of tragedy but you cant separate plot and character o If it goes on too long, your audience will stop listening and wont be able to comprehend whats going on o On the other hand, if the piece is too short, there isnt enough time for it to have enough complexity to satisfy your audience - The three elements of mimesis the median, the object, manners (pg.52) - Drama to do, doing, drama is a kind of action - Actors wore masks on stage o How does this relate to limitation? o A good mask represents features that look at the character The mask is the idealized structure of the character Plato sees mimesis as falsifying things o Aristotle says instead of falsifying reality, it gives us things as it OUGHT to be - How things are in nature how does poetry work in probability or necessity, logical thinking - Philosophical debates how do we know the way things really are? - Some of our actions are structured by our intentions, beliefs and desires - Purgation why do I want to see such horrible things? o Argument that tragedy doesn`t encourage the bad passions in us, it RIDS us of those passions - Tragedy affects our understanding by effecting our emotions 4 | P a g e
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