Information on Greek theatre, Oedipus, & an Interview with

Information on Greek theatre, Oedipus,
& an Interview with Mr. Towers
Oedipus Rex – written around 441 B.C. by Sophocles
Sophocles the Playwright
Athens, Greece. Produced 100+ plays, seven of which
survive today (all of which are deeply troubling).
Greek culture believed that anything was possible through
human effort and reason – Sophocles presented the
opposite in Oedipus Rex.
This play involves characters that are caught up in
unsolvable dilemmas causing them to challenge their faith
in the gods as well as humanity.
Oedipus Rex is one of the world’s greatest tragedies.
Another Interesting Guy…
Thespis – was an actor/ director/
producer. Very arrogant and wanted to
stand out. He evolved the protagonist.
Three actors were on stage at a time.
Used chorus to connect the plot between
scenes with actors.
 (This is where the term ‘thespian’ comes
from meaning ‘actor’)
Given the form of this play, what is it telling us
about the culture and point in history when it
was performed?
The play was performed as a celebration to
Dionysus (the god of fertility, sex and theater).
The event was a three-day celebration where
three playwrights presented… tragedies...
Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus were
three of the most celebrated and successful
playwrights…everyone went. It was one event
that they all celebrated.
–M. Towers
Also keep in mind the importance of myth in the
Greek culture. Gods, heroes, and storytelling
dominated their world and most of it was oral.
- M. Towers
The Stage
Skene (skay-nay) scene hut located on stage
Periaktoi – (pear-ee-ack-toy) triangular prisms
or scenery – country/city/other
Can you speak to the acting that was
involved and how actors tackle a work like
Oedipus today?
This Greek text is extremely demanding
on modern actors. Actors were very
skilled and trained 2,500 years ago.
They’d have to be! Some audiences were
20,000 -60,000 strong! They would need
to have well trained voices and bodies in
order to effectively communicate. – M.
That is like performing to a sold out crowd at
the TD Banknorth Garden
a sold out crowd at Yankee Stadium.
The Orkestra
Dithyramb (dith –eh-ramb) synchronized chanting
[think iambic pentameter]
Chorus – singers and dancers. Few women. Dancing
circle would perform on stage before actors came
along. Then they got bumped to the pit. Also reduced in
scope with the addition of actors. 60  40  20.
…what is difficult about directing
this play?
They lack a lot of what we call dramatic action!
The Greeks didn’t show you much. They TALK
about what has just happened but show you
very little. For example: You don’t see Oedipus
claw his eyes out, you hear about the aftermath
be we are spared the sight of it. We want to see
it! This is classic Greek theater. – M. Towers
Terms to Recap:
Tragedy: a serious drama with a protagonist
who struggles to achieve one thing and is
ultimately unable to attain it, failing deeply.
Tragic Flaw: a weakness that the protagonist
has, leading to his or her downfall.
In Greek tragedy this is referred to as Hamartia –
(ha-mar-tia) meaning “to miss the mark” the tragic
flaw causing the down fall.
The Challenge:
Oedipus Rex was a story that everyone in
the audience would have known. How do
you retell and make it interesting? Think
Romeo & Juliet for today. Consider how
the audience’s previous knowledge of the
story would increase the level of tragedy.
Switch to:
Pre-Oedipus PowerPoint
The Play Begins…
Sophocles opens his play with a relatable issue
to the people of Athens: a plague!
Setting: Ancient Athens (5th century B.C.)
The city of Thebes is ravaged by a seemingly
never-ending plague and the people beg their
King Oedipus to save them. King Oedipus
sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to the Oracle of
Apollo at Delphi for answers.
The Oracle tells Creon that the plague of
Thebes will end when the murderer of the
previous king, King Lauis, has been punished.
King Oedipus tells the people he will apprehend
the murderer and save Thebes.
This will set him on his course of Perepeteia –
(pear-eh-peh-tay-uh) to achieve the exact
opposite of what one sets out to achieve.
Eventually, leading to Anagnorisis – (ahnagnor-isis) the realization.
Main Characters
Oedipus –
protagonist, name
means swollen foot,
suffers from Hubris –
overbearing pride. He
is a good King and
cares for his people
but again, is full of
Jocasta – the wife
and mother of
Oedipus, tries to
protect Oedipus from
the truth. Seems to
change her opinion
on whether to trust or
ignore the Oracle.
Main Characters
Teiresias – a blind
prophet who tells
Oedipus he will
become blind and
poor. One of the most
powerful characters.
Theban Elders –
They honor King
Oedipus and the
gods. When they
speak they reinforce
their support for the
king and the
importance of
respecting the gods.
Main Characters
Creon – brother in
law of Oedipus.
Oedipus fears Creon
wants the crown but
Creon denies this.
Messenger 1: Tells King
Oedipus that King
Polybos of Corinth is
dead and that he was not
his real father. Baby
Oedipus had been given
to the messenger by
someone from Lauis’
Main Characters
Sheperd of Lauis:
After Oedipus
threatens his life, he
admits giving Baby
Oedipus to
Messenger 1 after
Lauis and Jocasta
told him to put the
baby in the woods.
Messenger 2:
Describes Jocasta’s
suicide, predicts the
people of Thebes will
suffer because of
King Oedipus’ sins.
And the Chorus…
Two groups called Strophe and
Antistrophe. Their chants recap what has
happened and ask questions to the
characters that have not been answered.
Often it sounds like they are speaking
their thoughts aloud.
Can you explain the Strophe and
Antistrophe a little bit more?
Literally, the strophe and anti-strophe are
(poetic) stanzas. With regards to dramatic
movement within them, the chorus would have
moved to CONTRAST form one another. The
antistrophe was an answer or a response to the
strophe and therefore the movement would
have mirrored and supported that concept.
– M. Towers
Concepts that will turn into
Power of the gods
 Quest for identity and truth
 Nature of innocence and guilt
 Nature of moral responsibility
 The ability to control one’s fate
References to light and darkness to
predict the future
 References to being able to see and
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