World / Multicultural Literature: Tragedy & Africa
Oedipus at Colonus
The Gospel at Colonus
Five Blind Boys, African American culture as tragic beauty
Nightingale song p. 4, p. 26
Five Blind Boys / Oedipus x Chorus pp. 8-9
Ismene p. 13 see you through my tears
1. How does it change the Tragedy to have it sung? Or preached [narrator / chorus]
2. What effect of mixing gospel style with classical content? How well do they mix & match?
Oedipus at Colonus: The Furies are back! (These spirits of revenge pursued Orestes in the Oresteia. Here, the grove where Oedipus & Antigone rest is sacred to Furies, who would naturally be scandalized by Oedipus's crimes.)
1. Compare the chorus's and audience's potential catharsis of "pity and fear" for Oedipus to our reactions to the same character in Oedipus the King. Since modern audiences typically have a hard time caring about Oedipus as King, what changes our attitudes to him in this play?
2. Oedipus acts helpless, but how helpless is he really, and how much is he controlling the action? How convincing are his speeches justifying his past sins? Evidence of tragic flaw?
2a. Continuing #2, what about Oedipus's character is revealed by his cursing of Polyneices? Why is the scene so powerful and meaningful? Compare to Bible's parable of the Prodigal Son? (Potential contrast of Abrahamic and Classical Greek-Roman ethics)
2b. Since Antigone is Oedipus's true child, compare her character in Oedipus at Colonus to her character in Antigone.
3. How does Oedipus's death resemble the conclusion of a romance as transcendence? (narrative genres)
3a. Compare conclusion to conclusion of the Oresteia trilogy in The Eumenides?
4. Discuss spectacle in Oedipus at Colonus's finale or elsewhere in play? What advantages to showing or not showing rescues, divine actions, etc.?
5. Not to press comparisons to diminishing returns, but how might Oedipus's resolution appear Christ-like or compatible with the Christ story? (This potential analogy is partly encouraged by the translator's use of biblical language.)
Notes for Oedipus at Colonus
6 I am taught by suffering to endure, [tragic theme: suffering > wisdom]
ANTIGONE: Long-suffering father
Oedipus, the towers
64 OEDIPUS: You say people live in these parts?
STRANGER: Surely; they bear the name of yonder god. [yonder god=Athena>Athenians]
Hear, gentle daughters of primeval Night,
[daughters = Furies]
110 contrast Oed's previous nature
I will be mute, and you
shall guide my steps
158 OEDIPUS: Daughter, what counsel should we now pursue?
ANTIGONE: We must obey and do as here they do.
OEDIPUS: Your hand then! 160
In a strange land, strange
thou art; [cf. Exodus 2:22]
186 ANTIGONE: Thy steps to my steps, lean thine aged frame on mine.
192 OEDIPUS: Strangers, I have no country. O forbear— [forbear = hold back, lay off]
CHORUS: What is it, old man, that you would conceal?
OEDIPUS: Forbear, nor urge me further to reveal—
204 OEDIPUS: Know you of Laius's—
CHORUS: What? Who!
Seed of Labdacus—
father, was son of King Labdacus of
CHORUS: Oh Zeus!
OEDIPUS: The hapless Oedipus.
. . .
[ruth = mercy]
am I then
276 A holy and god-fearing man is here
I see a woman
323 OEDIPUS: O children—sisters!
327 OEDIPUS: What brought thee, daughter?
ISMENE: Father, care for thee.
330 news . . . brothers
354 bring thy father all
369 now some god and an infatuate soul
[infatuate soul = crazed spirit]
387 What has been uttered, child?
Thy country (so it runs)
shall yearn in time [Thy country = Thebes]
393 ISMENE: The gods, who once abased, uplift thee now. [romance of transcendence?]
406 OEDIPUS: Mean they to shroud my bones in Theban dust? [shroud . . . dust? = bury my body in Theban soil?]
Nay, father, guilt of
kinsman's blood forbids.
[Oedipus can’t be
412 [Instructor's note: In following passages here omitted, Ismene tells Oedipus of a recent prophecy that previews the blessings Oedipus's burial will bring to Athens; that Theban invaders of Athens will some day be routed in a battle near the grave of Oedipus.]
may the gods never
quench their fatal feud,
523 CHORUS: Grant my request, I granted all to thee.
1) [Chorus moves right
539 OEDIPUS: Sprang from the wife and mother's travail-pain. [travail-pain= childbirth, labor]
540 then thy offspring are at once— 540
546 CHORUS: Thou hast endured—
OEDIPUS: Intolerable woe.
CHORUS: And sinned—
OEDIPUS: I sinned not.
563 OEDIPUS: I slew him who otherwise would have me slain;
566 CHORUS: Behold our sovereign, Theseus, Aegeus's son,
597 THESEUS: What profit dost thou proffer to have brought? [What’s in it for me to inherit responsibility for your body in death?]
OEDIPUS: Hereafter you shall learn, not yet, methinks.
he can claim the hospitality
674 What is it thou fearest?
753 of all Thebans I have most
774 Creon's hypocrisy puts us on Oedipus's side
835 OEDIPUS: What power do you have to execute this threat?
of thy daughters is already seized,
CREON (to his guards)
872 ANTIGONE: Ah, woe is me, they drag me hence, O friends. [hence = away]
to thee and all thy cursed race
947 now the
laws to which himself appealed,
954 a State that
champions right and asks
State that champions right = Athens]
[*Instructor's note: Theseus chides Creon by saying that if Theseus were visiting Creon's Theban territories, he would never take military action without consulting with the leaders of Thebes. Beginning at line 982 below, Creon tries to turn the argument by saying he couldn't imagine that Theseus would object to actions taken against a moral outcast like Oedipus.]
986 Nor would
they harbor, so I stood assured,
shameless big-mouth, do you think this abuse
1116 And if
him, how can you
And for my
mother, wretch, be ashamed,
Knowingly you vilify
her and me;
1136 if thou canst:
If any land knows how to pay the gods
1192 I would like to see that fight; [sorry, no spectacle, please]
1246 For lo, an escort with the maids draws near.
body of armed men]
[escort = body of armed men]
Enter Antigone and Ismene with Theseus
[This best of men = Theseus as hero
[This best of men = Theseus as hero of romance narrative]
OEDIPUS: My child! and are ye back indeed!
Yes, saved By Theseus and his gallant followers.
[reminiscent of romance narrative]
Come to your father's arms, O let me feel
ANTIGONE: Thou askest what is doubly sweet to give.
1268 Now tell me of your
adventures, but in brief;
You were their
sole deliverer, none else.
You were their
sole deliverer, none else.
[i.e., consequences of justice, positive consequences to good actions
I would like to have
1335 fail not in due reverence to the god.
For our sake also let our brother come.
Look thou to the past, forget the present, think
Look thou to the past, forget the present, think
nor he that takes
[As wrong begets wrong, so kindness may beget grace;
Antigone pleads to example of Theseus's favor toward Oedipus, which Oedipus
should pass on to Polynices]
[As wrong begets wrong, so kindness may beget grace; Antigone pleads to example of Theseus's favor toward Oedipus, which Oedipus should pass on to Polynices]
Let it be, then; have your way
Not to be born at all
For when youth
passes with its giddy train,
[Instructor's note: The following scene of Oedipus's repudiation of Polynices might be compared / contrasted to Christ's Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15: 11-32]
All this too late I
learn, wretch that I am,
Why silent? Father, speak. Don’t turn away,
I have been banished from my native land
1450 the prime cause
= populist; mob-pleasing]
[Polynices resists responsibility, flips cause to family
[Polynices resists responsibility, flips cause to family curse]
levy with their aid that sevenfold host
victory, if oracles speak true,
they are men
That city you can
never storm, but first
1516 That you might learn to honor those who bear thee
This curse I leave
thee as my last bequest:—
I dare not whisper this curse to my allies
thy host to
How could I lead again
brother, why should you be wish to fight again?
To live in
exile is shameful, and shalI
Aye, so he
wishes:—but I cannot yield.
Ills on ills! no pause or rest! 1590
1598 Hark! How the thunder rumbles! Zeus defend us! [thunder = sublime + spectacle]
me the predestined end
For all his
benefits I would perform
Our fate hangs
in the balance. I would do all
Bequeath a treasure age cannot corrupt.
1662 But those dread mysteries speech may not profane [sublime as what cannot be defined or expressed?]
But to the spot—the god within me impels—
O light, no light to me, but mine a while,
Wrongfully in life oppressed,
Oedipus is gone, but the event
1716 he has passed away from life to death.
"My children, you will lose your father today,
A moment there was silence; suddenly
After brief space we looked again, and lo
It was a messenger from heaven, or else
[Enter Antigone and Ismene]
Alas, my sister, what new fate
Tombless he died, none near. 1870
there; slay me there.
to die anticipates tragedy of Antigone]
to get us home
CHORUS: Why must you roam?
tears; when grace is shed
let us go
Wail no more,
let sorrow rest,