Oedipus The King Is One English Literature Essay

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The scene Ive chosen to write about it is the Discovery scene at the end of the play. This scene happens between lines 1311 and 1684. The reason I chose this scene is because I believe that it is the moment where the story unfolds. This is the scene in which Oedipus discoveres Jocasta has commited suicide and that she was his mother, and he killed his own father. This scene is a complete contrast to the previous section of the play. In the previous section a messenger comes to tell Oedipus that his father Polybus has died. Jocasta rejoices assuming that his father had died from natural causes, which was not the case. The story unfolds further, as the King is still not certain that the prophecy wouldn't come true, and that he may have or will sleep with his mother. The messenger breaks the happiness by explaining that Polybus, his father and Merope, his mother were not his natural parents. Oedipus then wishes to find who his true parents were, which Jocasta begs him to abandon his hope in finding them, however he does not listen to her. All of this scene is building up to the climax which would take place in the next scene, and emphasizes this climax and how it effects the protagonist. (SparkNotes Editors, 2002)

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The chorus at the beginning of this scene remind us of the images surrounding Oedipus' success and control of the state. These images include a �Plowman� and a �Ship's Captain�. However these are swiftly turned into symbols of failure and disgrace. The imagery is shown in a sexual manner, as the chorus use dramatic metaphor's to explain that Oedipus and his father have �shared� the same woman, Jocasta. This is rather disturbing imagery, and would have reminded the audience of the seriousness of this act. This relates quite a lot to the conventions of the time. Oedipus' actions has become a plague on the state, and we can see this symbolism at the opening of the play, where a plague dominates the land. The use of metaphors in the opening of this scene highlight the use of Dramtical language by Sophocles, to change the mood of the play from a someone comic previous scene, to a more dark and tragic ending to the play. (SparkNotes Editors, 2002)

When Oedipus enters having blinded himself, we begin to see a new side to the character of the King. Because he is no longer able to see the physical world around him, he get's a glimpse into his inner being, and the demons which reside there. This blinding is both physical and symbolic as they would have followed the conventions of the period. Oedipus, because of his foul actions, no longer deserves to see the world around him, and hence should be forced to rather look in on himself to see his own faults. This symbol a strong theme throughout the work, and it is brought out by Sophocles in the final moments of the play. However this could be interpeted a lot differently to the normal way of thinking. We could assume that Oedipus no longer wished to look upon the world which he has created around himself, as he knows that all he will be able to see is darkness, and hence the removal of his sight would signify that no matter where he turned too, whether it was to the real world, blindness or even death, he will not escape the darkness inside of him. It is almost as if Oedipus has turned into the blind prophet which he once mocked earlier in his lifetime. The complexity of this symbolism is the reason I chose to write about this scene, it's many meanings adds a strong sense of mystery and it dramatically emphasizes the dramatic language used throughout the play. (Dilke, O.A.W,1948, Page 125)

The character of Oedipus is one of remarkable complexity. He is driven by curiousity to find out who his true parents were, even though he was asked many times to avoid searching by Jocasta, for she knows the truth. He also wishes to try avoid the prophecy which stated that he would kill his father and marry his mother. We do see a development of character in our Protagonist, he changes from a man of honour and pride to shame and disgust in the eyes of the public. He falls to pieces after the discovery that the prophecy had become reality, and as said before, we see the inner parts of his character come out. His blindess prevents us from seeing Oedipus as a man of exterior qualities, rather a man who is suffering internally. The character of Oedipus would have to have been acted out almost as if he has a split personality, the audience needs to see a dramatic change between the man of honour and the man of shame at the climax of the play. This would not have been too difficult to do with the aid of masks in the Greek theatre. (SparkNotes Editors, 2002)

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There are many differences between the theatre of the modern world and the theatre of today. It is as if theatre was seen in a different light all together compared to our modern interpretation of what the theatre is used for. For instance, attending a Greek Play was seen as a form of worship to the Gods, as the theatre was a large part of religious festivals.The plays which were put on were usually seen as a form of worship to the God Dionysus. Exctacy, Wine, and madness among women were only a few of the symbols which symbolized the God. This worship to Dionysus is more dominant in some plays compared to others. One fantastic example of such worship is the Bacchae by Euripides. The Greek theatre played a massive role in the everday lives on the Greeks. Most playwrights were based on myth and legends, along with worship to specific Gods. Oedipus the King, is an example of a mythical play about the life and tragic end of the King of Thebes, Oedipus. This means that most of the people who attended Sophocles' playwright, would have known the story before they even arrived at the theatre. This play leaves a large amount open to the imagination because of the context in which is finds itself. Because it's such an old play, we need to imagine as to what the performance would have been like. Greek plays were usually performed with large masks, which made it easy for the audience who sat far at the back to see the emotion being portrayed by the actor. These masks were overexaggerated, usually with large mouths and other facial features which made it certain to the audience which emotion was being depicted on stage. The masks are used throughout the play, often keeping a single mask for one character in the play. This allowed one actor to play many roles, and to enhance the staging of the play for this era. (SparkNotes Editors, 2002)

The Greek theatre is a large aspect of the performance of Oedipus the King, and should be taken into account when speaking about any action on or off stage. Most Greek tragedies were performed in outdoor theatres. This was due to the design of the theatre, and how the acoustics worked. As a result of the clever design of the theatre, it is extremely easy to hear the person who is performing on stage without the need for microphones, or electronic equipment, and it is one of the main reasons that theatres such as the theatre of Dionysus on the Acropolis are still being used to this day to put on productions. The Greek theatre was made up of many parts which were used to enhance the quality of the performance. The Orchestra was usually a circular section in front of the Theatron, the area in which the audience sat. This was generally the area where the singing and dancing of the chorus took place, as well as the interaction of the chorus with the actors on stage. In this scene we see the chorus explaining the situation at both the start and the ends of the scene, they portray a dark image at the start, to prepare the audience with the tragedy which was about to take place. However, this is not the case as we approach the end of the scene, where all actors exit except for the chorus, where they explain that one of Greece's greatest men has become a victim to his own actions, and that only death can bring him peace now. (Dilke, O.A.W,1948, Page 127)

The Skene was a large wall behind the Orchestra. This would have been the backdrop to most Greek plays, in this play, the skene would have been a temple-like structure, usually with one door. The backdrop in this scene highlights what Oedipus has now lost. It shows the rich life that he once lived will now be taken from him, as he does not deserve to live in a life of luxury, in the eyes of the Gods he has done wrong beyond repair. The final part of the Greek theatre was called the Parodos, which were the entrances and exits for the actors, these were placed in between the Skene and the Theatron on either side of the Orchestra. (Dilke, O.A.W,1948, Page 126). In this scene the Parodos were used when Oedipus enters the scene with a young boy guiding his way, the entrance would have taken long enough, and would highlight and allow the audience to clearly see that something has happened to the King Oedipus. In most situations all of the scene's which included actors suffering in pain would have taken place offstage, and when Oedipus entered the stage, we would have seen his mask for the first time. The over exaggeration of the masks would also have dramaticized the look of grief and despair on the face of Oedipus. (Goldhill, S. Reading Greek Tragedy,1986)

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For these reasons, I chose to write about this specific scene in the play. It is one of my favourite scenes in all of the Greek Tragedies which I have read because of the amount of symbolism, character development, and the way in which the stage affects the characters which are acting on it. It is really fascinating to see how one character develops and changes into someone who we almost don't recognise. This appears to be the case with Oedipus and how he turned from being a great ruler to a sin filled sorrowful man, who has been exiled from his home. Tragedy is a strong form of playwright and it never ceases to amaze me how different a production can be performed.

Greek theatre is always a fascinating topic though, the use of masks to protray emotions, the showing of myths and legends from the past, and the relation of theatre with religion all create an atmosphere which can never be felt in another theatre. And my favourite part, is that this is only one scene, which makes up a fantastic tragedy from many years ago.