Edition used: Oxford, Trans. Stephen Berg & Diskin Clay
In this lecture, “Oedipus: Rex or Tyrannus”, Robert Crawford begins by discussing some influential readings of the play (by Aristotle, Nietzsche & Freud) and then gives some possible reasons why the play still has staying power. He argues that the play is as much a story about the limits of human knowledge as it is a personal tragedy about Oedipus. Crawford concludes by addressing the question of whether we might think of Oedipus as a king or a tyrant.
Faculty: Robert Crawford
Lecture date: Sept. 12, 2016
Theme: Seeing and Knowing
Please see this Mediasite link for the video with the sides attached.
- Do the supporting characters in Oedipus the King play a fundamental role in our understanding of the central character and his confrontation with fate? Please confine yourself to a maximum of two supporting characters.
- Using direct evidence from the text, discuss the function and significance of the Chorus in the play.
- Write an essay that examines literal and metaphorical blindness, and/or images of light and darkness, in Oedipus the King. In your essay you might consider the way in the inability to see connects to matters such as knowledge, ignorance, and punishment.
- If Oedipus is innocent, why does he not curse the gods? If guilty, what are his sins?
- Are there reasons for Oedipus’s self-blinding—thematic, symbolic, narrative and so forth—beyond those he gives himself?
- Sight and blindness are obviously central themes in Oedipus the King. Explore the use of other sensory images and their connection to knowledge in the play.
- How might the play’s many instances of dramatic irony (give examples) relate to and shape the major themes of Oedipus the King?
it was Apollo, always Apollo,
who brought each of my agonies to birth,
nobly else, I,
I raised these two hand of mine, held them above my head,
and plunged them down,
I stabbed out these eyes.
— Oedipus (Sophocles 85, lines 1329-1332)
In your opinion, is Oedipus’s fate determined by divine influence or his own human agency? Answer with reference to evidence from the play.
More material related to Sophocles
Gustave Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx, public domain on Wikimedia Commons