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The Oedipus Plays Oedipus, Essential Revision Notes

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Table of Contents

Context 5

Greek Theatre 5

Oedipus the King 5

Summary 7

Characters 9

Oedipus 9

Jocasta 10

Antigone 10

Creon 11

Polynices 12

Tiresias 12

Haemon 12

Ismene 12

Theseus 12

Chorus 12

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols 14

Themes 14

The Power of Unwritten Law 14

The Willingness to Ignore the Truth 14

The Limits of Free Will 14

Motifs 15

Suicide 15

Sight and Blindness 15

Graves and Tombs 16

Symbols 16

Oedipus’s Swollen Foot 16

The Three-way Crossroads 16

Antigone’s Entombment 16

Important Quotations Explained 17

1. 17

2. 17

Sample Answers 19

Examine the messenger’s speech narrating the death of Jocasta and the blinding of Oedipus in Oedipus the King. What is the messenger’s attitude toward the events he describes? What is the effect of his announcement on the audience? 19

The Power of Fate in the Oedipus Trilogy 20

Context

Greek Theatre

Greek theatre was very different from what we call theatre today. It was, first of all, part of a religious festival. To attend a performance of one of these plays was an act of worship, not entertainment or intellectual pastime. But it is difficult for us to even begin to understand this aspect of the Greek theatre, because the religion in question was very different from modern religions. The god celebrated by the performances of these plays was Dionysus, a deity who lived in the wild and was known for his subversive revelry. The worship of Dionysus was associated with an ecstasy that bordered on madness. Dionysus, whose cult was that of drunkenness and sexuality, little resembles modern images of God.

A second way in which Greek theatre was different from modern theatre is in its cultural centrality: every citizen attended these plays. Greek plays were put on at annual festivals (at the beginning of spring, the season of Dionysus), often for as many as 15,000 spectators at once. They dazzled viewers with their special effects, singing, and dancing, as well as with their beautif...

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