Tuesday, November 23, 1993

Sophocles 1: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone

by Sophocles
440-430 BC
translated by David Grene, Elizabeth Wyckoff, Robert Fitzgerald

"Oedipus the King": Fascinating, and amazingly human, amazingly visual. I could practically picture the emotions flitting over Oedipus' face when Jocasta was telling the story of his birth without realizing what it meant to him. Oedipus blamed himself & everyone else, but took control of his life only when he gouged out his eyes. Creon, meanwhile, started out innocent & obeisant but was eager to give orders at the end. A thrilling psychological drama. One subtle part that really shows Sophocles' talent was how it just hinted that Jocasta knew (or more than suspected) the truth long ago, and just hoped quietly that things would stay the way they were. Now that's brilliant psychological writing.

"Oedipus At Colonus": Another wonderfully modern play. This edition had stage notes (Fitzgerald's?) that were irritatingly superfluous due to the superb and already explicit dialogue. But the play itself was wonderful: not quite as psychologically intense as the first, but as dramatic as the plot (the exile suddenly becomes crucial to his homeland) allowed.

"Antigone": Very good. The conflict arises from hubris (Creon not wanting to obey Antigone, "a girl", or Haemon, "a young boy", or even Teiresias – "to yield is dreadful") opposed to humble piety (Antigone's unlawful but just burial of her brother). Although last in series, Sophocles wrote this one first, & the drama does not have as tense & terribly inevitable a build-up as Oedipus the King.

five stars

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