The Oedipus Plays Oedipus the King Short Sample Answers

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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? 4

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?

The audience does not see Jocasta commit suicide or Oedipus blind himself, because in Ancient Greek theatre such violent catastrophes traditionally happen offstage. The audience hears them described by witnesses rather than seeing them first-hand. Greek tragedy left more to the imagination than modern theatre does. It placed a great deal of importance on the language in which the catastrophe is described.

In the case of Oedipus, the convention of keeping violence offstage is thematically appropriate. The audience is faced with the realization that it is blind, that it relies for its knowledge of events on report and hearsay, and is thus prone to error and uncertainty. Over the course of the play, the once-confident Oedipus discovers that he is in the grip of uncertainty and error himself. His self-blinding symbolizes, among other things, the blindness and doubtfulness of human life in general.

The messenger suggests that the Chorus—and, implicitly, the audience—is better off having been spared thes...

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