Sophocles Oedipus The King

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Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, is renowned as one of the most edifying tragedies of its era and its influence on both theatre and society is still evident today. Through the development of one of the most profound characters in literature, the play offers an insight on themes such as fate, free will, recognition, relationships, religion, and duty. The play was first performed in about 429 B.C in the City Dionysia, where it secured second place, and it continues to be performed today through different platforms including films, plays, and operas. This paper will provide an in-depth analysis of Oedipus the King. It will also include an overview of Sophocles’ biography, examine the plays’ historical context, provide an overview…show more content…
Oedipus the King was written during the same period as the Peloponnesian War between the Athenians and the Spartans from 431-404 B.C (Straus 5). In the play, Sophocles alludes to the plague of Athens as the plague of Thebes that had occurred amidst the Peloponnesian War. He introduces the audience to this catastrophic plague in an exchange between Oedipus and the priest: “Our city reeks with the smoke of burning incense rings with the cries for the Healer and wailing for the dead […] the red waves of death…Thebes is dying” (1-31). According to Thucydides, the plague of Athens was the result of the Peloponnesian War (Capps 35). Therefore, by alluding to the plague of Athens, Sophocles indirectly alludes to the devastating effects of the Peloponnesian War on both the Athenians and the Spartans. These effects of the plague, or more indirectly the effects of whole war, are conveyed by Sophocles through his use of germane words and phrases including: “smoke of burning incense” (4), “wailing for the dead” (5), “future in ashes” (27), “red waves of death” (30), “slashing…raging...vengeance...devastation” (35-36), and “death luxuriates in the raw” (36). Therefore, the Peloponnesian War and the plague of the Athens are both historical context that influenced the play’s…show more content…
Other performance practices include the use of consistent architecture, the use of the chorus, the use of masks, and the use of limited props on stage. The consistency in the architectural design shaped the theatrical performances including Oedipus the King. The architecture of the theatres, for example Dionysos Eleuthero, a popular theatre used during City Dionysia included a skene, an orchestra, parados, and a theatron (Cartwright 1). With this consistency in architecture, playwrights were exposed to the architecture of the theatre where their plays were being performed before even writing them. Hence, playwrights were writing for known set designs. The chorus was another important performance practice of the period. It was constituted of all males, including both adults and boys. In Oedipus the King, the chorus of the 15 Theban elders serves an important role in not only reinforcing and recapitulating the plot, but presenting alternative and supplementary viewpoints to transcend the plot. For example, during the interaction between Tiresias and Oedipus, the chorus not only supplies the audience with the emotions elicited by two characters, but guides the characters in a pragmatic resolution: “I would suggest his words were spoken in anger, Oedipus…yours too, and it isn’t what we need. The best solution to the
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