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The Birth of Drama Clst 181SK Ancient Greece and the Origins of Western Culture

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  • The Birth of Drama

    Clst 181SK Ancient Greece and the Origins of Western Culture

  • The Birth of Drama

    The three great Classical tragedians: !

    Aeschylus 525-456 BC Sophocles 496-406 BC Euripides 486-406 BC

    !pathei mathos - learning through suffering

    Aeschylus, Agamemnon

  • The Birth of Drama

    The three great Classical tragedians: !

    Aeschylus 525-456 BC Oresteia (includes Agamemnon), Prometheus Bound

    Sophocles 496-406 BC Oedipus the King, Antigone, Ajax, Philoctetes

    Euripides 486-406 BC Medea, Trojan Women, Iphigeneia, Orestes

  • The Birth of Drama

    Theater of Dionysus, Athens !

  • Theater of Dionysus, Athens !

    The Birth of Drama

  • Theater of Dionysus, Athens !

    The Birth of Drama

  • Theater at Epidaurus !

    The Birth of Drama

  • The Birth of Drama

    Theater at Epidaurus, acoustics

  • The Birth of Drama

  • The Birth of Drama

    Playwright !!(e.g. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides) ! didaskalos (cf. "didactic": literally, "teacher") text + music + dance + direction early on, also an actor !

  • The Birth of Drama

    Actors ! limited to 3 (early on 2, but all our plays require 3) !

    wore masks: probably paper-mache or the like, full head, perhaps enhanced projection of voice; allowed actors to play more than one part or to change the nature of a given part (e.g. Oedipus himself)

  • The Birth of Drama

    Chorus ! 15 (early on 12) members dancing AND singing! choruses were widespread in Greek culture:

    marriages, funerals, athletic victories, religious festivals-- even battles!

  • The Birth of Drama Chorus ! 15 (early on 12) members dancing AND singing! choruses were widespread in Greek culture:

    marriages, funerals, athletic victories, religious festivals-- even battles!

    Origins - Developmental narrative ! Chorus: Agrarian religious festival Thespis: introduces an actor who responds to chorus Two actors plus chorus Three actors plus chorus

    fundamental, and fundamentally different, is this opposition between chorus and actor, the alternation between spoken lines and those sung and danced, between lines that are part of the "drama" proper, and lines that are lyrical reflections by the chorus (e.g. first chorus of the Oedipus the King, pp. 151)

  • The Birth of Drama Origins - Developmental narrative ! Chorus: Agrarian religious festival Thespis: introduces an actor who responds to chorus Two actors plus chorus Three actors plus chorus

    Oedipus the King !Prologue, 1-150. (Priest, Oedipus, Creon) Parodos , 151-215 (Entrance of the Chorus: introductory Choral song during the procession) First Episode , 216-462 (Oedipus, Teiresias) First Stasimon , 463-512 (First Choral interlude: song, dance) Second Episode , 513-862. (Creon, Oedipus, Chorus; Jocasta) Second Stasimon , 863-910. (Second Choral interlude: song, dance) Third Episode , 911-1085. (Jocasta, Messenger, Chorus; Oedipus) Third Stasimon , 1086-1109. (Third Choral interlude: song, dance) Fourth Episode , 1110-1185. (Oedipus, Shepherd, Chorus) Fourth Stasimon , 1186-1222. (Fourth Choral interlude: song, dance) Exodos , 1223-1530. (Messenger, Chorus; Oedipus, Creon)

    Chorus: structure of Greek tragedy

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Clst 181SK Ancient Greece and the Origins of Western Culture

    The Classical Moment !

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Oedipus & the Sphinx

    =Oedipus Rex [Latin], [Greek]

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    People and places to know: !

    Oedipus Jocasta Laius (Polybus Merope) Sphinx Teiresias Apollo = Phoebus = Loxias = Pythos god Delphi = Pytho Cithaeron (mountain above Thebes) Thebes

    pathei mathos - learning through suffering Aeschylus, Agamemnon

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Thebes

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Thebes

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Background !Apollo and Delphi: Apollo as the voice of Zeus

    miasma: blood pollution that infects the family, and for a royal family the city itself

    riddle of the Sphinx: what has a voice and is sometimes 2-footed, sometimes 3-footed, and sometimes 4-footed, yet violates the natural principle that the animal with more feet is the stronger? OR what is 4-footed in the morning, 2-footed in the afternoon, 3-footed in the evening?story of Oedipus: Outlines of the story appear already in the Odyssey. Coming to the play Greeks would know the essentials: Oedipus King of Thebes killed his father, slept with his mother bearing four children, blinded himself, was exiled.

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Function of the CHORUS !!

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Function of the CHORUS !!

    Prologue, 1-150. (Priest, Oedipus, Creon) The priests of Thebes appear before Oedipus as suppliants, entreating him to find some end to the plague. Oedipus has already sent Creon to Delphi, who arrives to report that the killer of Laius must be sought out and banished. Oedipus vows to find the killer and summons the people of the city. !Parodos , 151-215. The Chorus of Theban citizens offer prayers to Zeus, Apollo, Athena for release from the plague. !First Episode , 216-462. Oedipus appeals for information and pronounces his curse on the murderer. Teiresias is summoned: at first he refuses to tell what he knows, but aroused by Oedipus' taunts he declares Oedipus the murderer. Oedipus declares a conspiracy by Creon. Teiresias declares that the murderer is present, and will be found son and husband to his mother. !First Stasimon , 463-512. The Chorus are fearful of the pronouncement of the seer, but declare their loyalty to their king. !Second Episode , 513-862. (Creon, Oedipus, Chorus; Jocasta) Creon is indignant at Oedipus' accusations. They argue over the charge. Jocasta tries to intervene. Kommos , 649-697. The Chorus advise restraint and Oedipus lets Creon go, though he declares him an enemy. Oedipus tells Jocasta the source of the dispute. Jocasta tells the story of Laius' death, and Oedipus recognizes many details: but he was a lone killer, whereas a band of killers was reported. Oedipus worries about the oracle; Jocasta denounces its veracity, adducing the prophesy about her son. !Second Stasimon , 863-910. (Chorus) Ode to the sanctity of divine law. The tyrant who ignores justice and reverence for the gods will fall. The oracles must be true. !Third Episode , 911-1085. (Jocasta, Messenger, Chorus; Oedipus) A messenger arrives from Corinth announcing the death of Polybus and Oedipus' ascension. He allays Oedipus' fear of the oracle (that he will marry his mother) by telling him of his true birth. Over Jocasta's objections Oedipus vows to continue his search for the truth. Jocasta runs into the palace. !Third Stasimon , 1086-1109. (Chorus) Ode to Mt. Cithaeron: we will soon know the parentage of Oedipus. !Fourth Episode , 1110-1185. (Oedipus, Shepherd, Chorus) The shepherd arrives who exposed the infant of Laius and escaped when Laius was killed. Oedipus' parentage becomes clear. Oedipus rushes into the palace. !Fourth Stasimon , 1186-1222. (Chorus) No man is blest: happiness is but an illusion, for even the great power and blessings of Oedipus have come to a fall. !

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Function of the CHORUS !!

    Oedipus the King !Prologue, 1-150. (Priest, Oedipus, Creon) Parodos , 151-215 (Entrance of the Chorus: introductory Choral song during the procession) First Episode , 216-462 (Oedipus, Teiresias) First Stasimon , 463-512 (First Choral interlude: song, dance) Second Episode , 513-862. (Creon, Oedipus, Chorus; Jocasta) Second Stasimon , 863-910. (Second Choral interlude: song, dance) Third Episode , 911-1085. (Jocasta, Messenger, Chorus; Oedipus) Third Stasimon , 1086-1109. (Third Choral interlude: song, dance) Fourth Episode , 1110-1185. (Oedipus, Shepherd, Chorus) Fourth Stasimon , 1186-1222. (Fourth Choral interlude: song, dance) Exodos , 1223-1530. (Messenger, Chorus; Oedipus, Creon)

    Episode Stasimon

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Function of the CHORUS - Pragmatics !!Often said that the chorus is the poet's voice, the means the poet uses of commenting on the action, that this is what the poet "really" thinks. Sometimes true, but most often not. Some fairly obvious (and rather mechanistic or formal) functions:

    ! chorus is an "act-dividing song":

    allows for entrances and exits allows for the scene to change

    marks the passage of time (as after Oed. and Joc. enter the palace after sending for the messenger, at 954ff)

    chorus comments directly on what is going on (yes, Oedipus, Creon makes sense, you are being too hasty in your conclusion)

    chorus comments less directly (various forebodings, seemingly directed to the audience, important for indicating mood swings much like the use of background music in modern TV and film)

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Function of the CHORUS - Music and Dance !!Much more important than these is the lyric, poetic function.

    Example, the first choral interlude (151ff): the chorus dances a sacred dance and sings a religious hymn that is, in effect, a prayer to the god: to an audience used to the religious associations, this would be a forceful insertion of the central importance of the divine to the tale.

    Specifically, in that same chorus is the clear introduction of the themes of divinity and esp. Apollo, divine brilliance and insight, divine wisdom that become almost a supernumerary player in the production (visual images of light dominate this chorus: "gold ... brilliant ... golden ... shine ... flame ... fire ... blazes ... golden ... radiant ... burns ... day .... lightning ... light ... golden ... torches flaring ... gleaming gold ... aflame ... lightning ... blazing ... blazes ... burn) And note the context: immediately before this chorus, Oedipus declares for himself the central task of the play, I will bring this to light again! - 132

    But also in this prayer are raised the holy dread felt by the chorus, and no doubt conveyed by the music and dance: why, if Apollo, the voice of Zeus, is golden, brilliant, the child of Hope, does he also provoke terror and dread? (The light that is divinity is both divine deliverance -- the light of the truth -- and divine retribution -- the lightningbolt that punishes.)

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    riddle of the Sphinx: what has a voice and is sometimes 2-footed, sometimes 3-footed, and sometimes 4-footed, yet violates the natural principle that the animal with more feet is the stronger? OR what is 4-footed in the morning, 2-footed in the afternoon, 3-footed in the evening?

    Word play & the poetry of paradox:

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Word play & the poetry of paradox: !Central from the very beginning: the idea of paradox, of riddling wisdom, of the one-that-is-many: much of the meaning of the play derives from the specifics of the poetic wording !

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Word play & the poetry of paradox: !! the riddle of the Sphinx is central background to the tale

    the very first line, in the original Greek, places the word for "new" immediately next to the word for "old" (in your translation, young sons and daughters of old Cadmus")

    Oidi-pous (Latinized as Oedi-pus for English) in Greek means "swollen footed" (think of octo-pus = "eight footed") But we can also analyze Oedipus in at least two other ways: oidi- to a Greek sounds like oida, oide = "I know, he knows" (a central theme in the play) -dipous to a Greek means the "two-footed one," with obvious associations to the riddle of the Sphinx (another central theme)

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Word play & the poetry of paradox: !!

    The play is full of other such verbal coincidences: arthra for instance means both "joint" (think of arthritis) and "eye-socket," thus to stick a pin through the arthra has a double meaning, referring both to the exposure of the infant Oedipus, whose ankle joints were pinned together, and to his horrible blinding by the pins of Jocastas broach. Note further the repeated insistence on the need to "pin down" the murderer, that is, to solve the mystery, with its metaphorical link to "knowing" and "seeing" the light, and with that the obvious link to the "coming into the light" (=birth) of Oedipus and the "going into the dark" (=blinding) of Oedipus.

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Word play & the poetry of paradox: !!

    But knowing is itself problematized in the Oedipus the King: central to the text is not only what is known and by whom, but what it means to "know"-- what is "true" knowing. Over and over, we find questions like "do I know what I know, do I see what I see, do the blind "truly" see, are the seeing "truly" blind?

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Word play & the poetry of paradox: ! IRONY !!

    Irony: when a remark shows a distance between apparent and intended meaning, that is, where what is literally said is opposite to what seems to be the case. Oedipus seems to have the "irony gene": the text is riddled with ironies. My favorite is when Oedipus, in commenting on the killer or killers of Laius, says (line 844), "one cannot be the same as many."

    You said that he spoke of highway robbers who killed Laius Now if he uses the same number, it was not I who killed him. One man cannot be the same as many. - 844

    But of course Oedipus himself is exactly the one who IS the same as many, for he is both father and brother, husband and son, etc. !There are literally dozens of examples of irony in the play! (For the next class bring in your favorites, and I will bring mine.)

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    Word play & the poetry of paradox: ! IRONY !!

    Examples (from the class)

    Irony: when a remark shows a distance between apparent and intended meaning, that is, where what is literally said is opposite to what seems to be the case.

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Limits to Human inquiry and understanding !

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Limits to Human inquiry and understanding ! Apollo: the god who carries fire, light

    ! sun, day, clear, blazing, burning fever, blazing, burning: sender of plague and the Healer intelligence, clear, seeing brilliance, poetry (riddling) truth (knowledge), clear, seeing divine prophecy, clear, seeing (but given by a blind man, or a raving priestess: who among mortals can

    see the divine light?)

    (Apollo as voice of Zeus, Teiresias as voice of Apollo) !Paradoxically, divine prophecy is described by humans as dark, obscure, riddling, to be brought to light by the clear-sighted brilliance of human wisdom: but is this correct?

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    The Limits to Human inquiry and understanding !

    Oedipus: what sort of man is he? what are the basics of his heroic temper?

    Man of action, caring but haughty: 8 (whom men call Great), 62ff etc. Revealer of the truth: 133 Solver of riddles: 397ff I solved the riddle (of the Sphinx) by my wit alone note esp. his confidence in human wisdom quick, foreseeing, insightful: an almost superhuman intelligence: he has

    already sent Creon to the oracle when it is suggested, he has already sent for Teiresias when that is suggested

    But full of human faults too: quick to anger, quick to accuse, first Teiresias, then Creon (and cf. Creon's defence, and Oedipus' haughty replies at 583ff: telling to the democracy witnessing the play)

    !Solver of dark riddles, heroic seeker of truth and light, in his confidence in human wisdom a quick skeptic of oracles

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    What has Oedipus done to deserve such awful suffering? Why must he suffer?

    pathei mathos - learning through suffering Aeschylus, Agamemnon

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    What has Oedipus done to deserve such awful suffering? Why must he suffer?

    Often said to be his "hubris/hybris" (both spellings are acceptable). !What is hybris? NOT really "pride"-- a poor translation. Rather, it is the quality of not keeping awareness of your human limitations: the opposite of sophrosyne (= "moderation"). !Compare the meaning of the saying of Thales inscribed above the temple of Apollo at Delphi: gnothi sauton: "know thyself" = "know that you are not a god, that you have human limitations"

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    What has Oedipus done to deserve such awful suffering? Why must he suffer?

    Sometimes said to be because of Oedipus' "character flaw": but this is merely a misreading of Aristotle, who in any case lives two or three generations later. hamartia = "error" not "character flaw": this is not to deny that Oedipus HAS character flaws, simply that it doesnt seem central to motivating a reason for his suffering.

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    What has Oedipus done to deserve such awful suffering? Why must he suffer?

    Among the reasons for his suffering surely must be divine retribution, in some sense. But exactly what sense is hard to tease out. A prominent reason why Oedipus may deserve divine retribution is hinted at in several places, however, and has to do with human (over)confidence in their ability to seek out truth, and (consequence) skepticism of oracles and divine wisdom.

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    What has Oedipus done to deserve such awful suffering? Why must he suffer?

    chorus at lines 462ff, esp. 496ff: combines themes of hybris and the problem of belief in oracles, though in some particulars the exact relevance to Oedipus is questionable

    Jocasta's several statements doubting the divine wisdom of the oracles: 708ff, 850ff, 945ff, 964ff, and esp. 977ff

    Oedipus' abuse of Teiresias (the "voice of Apollo") and his final, gleeful agreement with Jocasta on the falseness of the oracles

    is Oedipus made then to suffer so horribly as an example to humans that divine knowledge, and in particular divine prophecy, is a powerful truth?

    it is not, in any case, as though Oedipus has sinned, and is therefore struck down by the gods: but he does, increasingly it seems, have faults, those of hybris and disbelief in the oracles (he is at first depicted as pious: line 77)

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King

    What has Oedipus done to deserve such awful suffering? Why must he suffer? But there is a frustrating, bewildering logic here: each step taken

    to avoid the oracles paradoxically brings Laius, Jocasta, Oedipus one step further towards the road to fulfilling the oracle

    what would have happened had they believed in, and not resisted, the prophecy of the god?

    could it be that if they had trusted in the oracle, then the oracle would nothave come true? but the oracle MUST come true! thus man MUST NOT believe it! so why does the divinity tell man this oracle?

    the wisdom that informs this paradoxical world is a riddling wisdom -- where you must disbelieve for the word of the gods to become true, where the blind see, and the sighted are blind -- a divine wisdom incomprehensible to humans

    the Sophoclean notion of divine wisdom seems then to assume essential truths beyond the ability of humans to comprehend (not far from certain strains of Christian theology)