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"Oedipus the Wreck"?
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... "There were three highways
Coming together at a place I passed;
And there a herald came towards me, and a chariot
Drawn by horses, with a man such as you describe
Seated in it. The groom leading the horses
forced me off the road at his lord's command;
But as this charioteer lurched over toward me
I struck him in my rage. The old man saw me
And bought his double goad down upon my head
As I came abreast.

He was paid back, and more!
. . . I killed him. I killed them all." (Sophocles 819)


* nature of the tragic character -- Aristotle: the change of fortune must presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity, for this moves neither pity nor fear: it merely shocks us. Nor, again, that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity, for nothing can be more alien to the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. Nor, again, should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. A plot of this kind would, doubtless satisfy the moral sense, but it would inspire neither pity nor fear, for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune . . . There remains, then, the character between these two extremes—that of a man who is eminently good and just. Yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity but by some error or frailty.

... You are not one of the immortal gods, we know;
Yet we have come to you to make our prayer
As to the man of all men best in adversity
And wisest in the ways of the God. You saved us
From the Sphinx, that flinty singer, and the tribute
We paid to her so long; yet you were never
Better informed than we, nor could we teach you:
It was some god breathed in you to set us free.
(Sophocles 802)


The Hero in Saga and Folktale. Propp's theory of the structure of Quest folktales applies also to the hero of saga. Nine motifs appear in the same order but not necessarily all in the same tale. They are:

1. the extraordinary birth and childhood of the hero.
2. the hero faces opposition and must surmount challenges.
3. he is set a task that defines his achievement.
4. he is helped by one or more divine or human allies.
5. he faces apparently insuperable obstacles.
6. his conflicts with opponents (divine, human, or monstrous) involve physical, sexual or spiritual challenges.
7. he may have to observe certain taboos.
8. his final conquest is Death, achieved typically by journeying to the Underworld and returning.
9. the hero's ultimate success brings rewards, for example, marriage or political power.

The hero's quest may also bring knowledge through suffering and spiritual enlightenment.

Oedipus. Do you know anything about him, Lady? Is he the man we summoned? Is that the man this shepherd means?

Jocasta. Why think of him? Forget this herdsman. Forget it all. This talk is a waste of time.

Oedipus. How can you say that, when the clues to my birth are in my hands?

Jocasta. For God's love, let us have no more questioning! Is your life nothing to you? My own is pain enough for me to bear.

Oedipus. You need not worry. Suppose my mother a slave, and born of slaves: no baseness can touch you.

Jocasta. Listen to me, I beg you: do not do this thing!

Oedipus. I will not listen; the truth must be made known.

(Sophocles 825)


Men of Thebes: look upon Oedipus.
This is the king, who solved the famous riddle
And towered up most powerful of men.
No mortal eyes but looked on him with envy,
Yet in the end ruin swept over him.
Let every man in mankind's frailty
Consider his last day; and let none
Presume on his good fortune until he find
Life, at his death, a memory without pain. (836)
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* tragedy: an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in the form of action . . .: through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions and; plot is the first principle, the soul of tragedy; most important of all is the structure of the incidents. (Poetics)

bach.mid *

* he requested exile to the mountain Cithaeron... where he was found as a child.

... During his journey, he finally began to forgive - the others, but particularly himself. He let loose the past and became silent.

A messenger tells about Oedipus' death:

Which kind of death was granted to the rambler,
only one mortal who can tell: Theseus, no other.
No sea of fire from the high god of lightning
hit or wiped him out, no storm carried him off,
such storm as then arose from sea.

While a god was his guide, the darkest deepness,
the underworld unlocked and welcomed him with favor.

So, without an illness, pain or sighs
he was taken away and so, if any mortal,
is he to praise. Whoever me, for what I've told, might see
as mad, absurd - he might: it does not hurt me.

"Oedipos in Kolonos", Sophocles.

"Children, your father leaves you now. This is the end of all I was, and the end of your task to care for me. I know how difficult it was. Still, it was relieved by one thing: love. I have loved you as no one loved you. Now you have to live the rest of your lives without me."

Then, a voice shouted: "Oedipus! It is time! You stay too long!"
Oedipus departed. Only King Theseus accompanied him.

A messenger tells about this last part of his journey:

"When we had covered some distance, we turned round and watched. Oedipus was not visible. The king stood alone. He held his hand before his eyes, like he had seen something that was too awful to behold. Soon thereafter, we saw him greeting heaven and earth with a short prayer.

Nobody can tell how Oedipus left this earth. Only Theseus knows. We know that he was not destroyed by lightening from heaven or devoured by a tidal wave from the sea, because that kind of things didn't happen. Maybe, a guiding ghost from the gods took him along with him, or maybe the depths of the earth unlocked, and so he was welcomed without any pain. It is certain that he was taken away without any pain or fight, without any fear - a passing away more wonderful than that of any other man."

The final chorus reads:

"Now, the tears have ended. No laments anymore.
Unimpaired, this occurrence stands in the proceeding of the time."

[ how to bring his past and future? screen? ]

Breaking News (Radio):

Family Affairs: Polybus, the King of Corinth, is not Oedipus’ Father

With the news of Polybus’ death still resonating through the streets of Thebes and royal halls of the palace, Oedipus received further shocking news.

Soon after receiving news that King Oedipus has gone to the underworld, King Oedipus was told by a Corinthian messenger that King Polybus was not his biological father. The messenger reportedly said: “Polybus was not your father, no more your father than the man speaking to you.” There was no doubt that everybody at the royal court was shocked to hear that Polybus wasn’t Oedipus’ father. Oedipus continued to inquire further about his past by asking the messenger: “Then why did he call me son?” The wizened messenger then said that he himself had given Oedipus to the king many years ago. However, the messenger admitted that he had gotten Oedipus from another person, a shepherd who worked for King Laios, the same shepherd whom Queen Iocaste had summoned.

This bizarre turn of events became even stranger when Queen Iocaste, instead of supporting her king in finding the elusive truth, tried to discourage Oedipus from finding out more details. She allegedly told Oedipus: “For God’s love, let us have no more questioning! Is your life nothing to you? Before she left, she continued to rant, saying: “Ah miserable! That is the only word I have for you now. That is the only word I can ever have.” She left for the palace right after, seeming very distraught and upset. Nobody understood why she left in such a state. Oedipus believes that the queen might be upset that she had married an ordinary man, or worse, the son of a slave.

Meanwhile, the king is determined to know where he came from. He continues to search for answers to his past and present, hoping to find the solutions that are eluding him.

It has also been told that before Oedipus went into exile, his sons hid him behind bars, hoping that the disgrace might be forgotten, and that while he still was living in the house, he made the most unholy curses against his sons, praying that they may divide their inheritance with a sharp sword. Since the brothers were scared by these curses, they agreed to alternate as kings, a deal they did not respect. And it is told that when Oedipus wished to leave Thebes he was not allowed to do so, but when he grew accustomed to stay at home, even as a prisoner, he was expelled. Jocasta, his mother and wife, committed suicide; according to some, she hanged herself in a noose, but others say that she killed herself with a sword.

Oedipus' abdication did not lead to peace and prosperity in Thebes, but to the destruction that comes from civil war and foreign intervention. Oedipus' accursed sons did not respect their deal concerning the kingdom, and they indeed divided their inheritance by the sword. The treasures of Thebes were taken out of the city, and soon the Argive army of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES attacked the ill-fated town. The SEVEN were defeated, and Creon came to power again after the death of Oedipus' sons. But ten years later, the sons of the SEVEN, known as the EPIGONI, captured Thebes.

Oedipus took refuge at Colonus in Attica, where he prayed in the precinct of the EUMENIDES (ERINYES). There he was hospitably received by King Theseus of Athens. It was while he still was in Colonus that dissension grew between his sons in Thebes. The younger brother Eteocles 1 banished Polynices, who being helped by King Adrastus 1 of Argos, raised the army of the SEVEN. As war approached, an oracle became known which stated that victory would belong to those who had Oedipus for ally. So first came Creon 2, on behalf of Eteocles 1, to persuade Oedipus to return to Thebes, or if persuasion failed to take him back by force. Creon 2 attempted to force Oedipus but was prevented by Theseus, who chose to champion the rights of asylum. Later arrived Polynices, promising his father to bring him back to Thebes and re-establish him if he would support his party. But Polynices, who previously had expelled his father from Thebes, received a renewed curse from Oedipus:
"That city you will never storm, but first will fall, you and your brother, blood-imbrued. Such curse I lately launched against you both, such curse I now invoke to fight for me. This curse I leave you as my last bequest: Never to win by arms your native land, nor return to Argos, but by a kinman's hand to die and slay." [Oedipus to Polynices. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 1385]

This curse came to be.

Shortly after these encounters, Oedipus died at Colonus, his grave becoming a protection for Athens. Some say that he died of natural causes, others that he killed himself, and still others believe that he died in Thebes.

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Poor children! You may be sure I know
All that you longed for in your coming here.
I know that you are deathly sick; and yet,
Sick as you are, not one is as sick as I.
Each of you suffers in himself alone
His anguish, not another's; but my spirit
Groans for the city, for myself, for you. (Sophocles 803)
King TV appearence, comes out after some fundraiser, toxido, Jocasta in evening dress, bullshiting the crowd, doesn't know what to do, was holding back as long as he could -- of course, he knows about the troubles, doesn't know what to do...


Oedipus: My children: you of Kadmos' ancient clan--
What draws you here to huddle before my altar fire
Bearing suppliant branches wreathed in wool?
The very air of Thebes is thick with the smoke
Of frankincense and prayers and hymns to God
And frightful lamentation. What can it be?
I thought it wrong, my children, to hear your pleas
From the mouths of others. So I have come myself
To hear what you would have that I may do.
I, Oedipus, known to every man throughout
The world. Old sir: your venerable age
Appoints you spokesman. What is in your hearts?
Why are you so affrighted and so sad?
Be sure that I will gladly give you all
My help. My heart would be hard indeed if I
Could not pity entreaties such as these.

Priest: O mighty Oedipus, ruler of our land,
You see cowering before your altars men
Of every age: some too young to try
Their wings; others bowed down with weight of years;
Some priests, like me, of Zeus; and these:
The best of our youth. All the rest of Thebes
Kneels in the market-place; before Athene's
Temples, and Apollo's river shrine
Where fires of divination dance and priests
Can see the future in the sacred flames.
Your own eyes can see our city is tossed
As if upon a murd’ring sea. She can
Not lift her head above the angry waves.
Ai! A deadly blight devours the buds
And fruitful blossoms of our fields; the herds
Are barren; and our wives miscarry or die
In childbirth. Last and worst, the fiery god
Of feverish plague swoops down upon us all
And empties the city of Kadmos, enriching the realm
Of Hades with our groans and tears. Ai!
Great king, we know you are no god but we
Have come, your children and I, to your palace door
Knowing that you of all men are the best
At solving life’s riddles and seeing the ways of the gods.
For it was you who saved us from the Sphinx
And the bloody tribute we’d paid her so long.
You did this with no help from us, for we
Could teach you nothing. We believe the gods
Were with you on that day and touched you just
As we believe the gods are with you still.
Therefore, mighty one, we beg of you:
Rescue us! Deliver us again!
But rule a city filled with living men
Not an empty wasteland. All the ships
And all the towered cities in the world
Are as nothing without living men.

Oedipus: O,
My children, how I pity you! I know
Already what you seek from me and all
You suffer. But for all your suffering I
Suffer more. For your pain strikes each one
Of you alone; each bears but a single pain.
My heart groans for myself, for all of you,
And for the whole city. You do not find me
Sleeping; you haven’t wakened me. I weep
For you and nightly walk through labyrinths
Of care. And the only remedy I could see
Thus pacing up and down, I’ve tried: I have sent
My own wife’s brother—Menoikeus’ son—I have sent
Kreon to Delphi, to Apollo’s sacred oracle
To learn if he can what act or oath of mine
Might save the city. But something troubles me:
I count the days in torment since he’s gone;
I find it strange that he has not returned!
And yet – when he comes back I should do ill
To fail to do whatever the god commands.

Priest: O timely oath! For see where even now
Kreon approaches!


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Family Tree

Relevant links







Military -- marines, fatigue and parades uniforms.


... Sphinx didn't die, lives in the pit, reappeares...


... We don’t believe in the old gods anymore...


Is Oedipus a True Leader?

study questions *

NB Did he kill before? Why he never recall the event w Laios?



Next: notes
Quotes & Thoughts:
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God. God.
Is there a sorrow greater?
Where shall I find harbor in this world?
My voice is hurled far on a dark wind.
What has God done to me?

... No more, no more shall you look on the misery about me,
The horrors of my own doing! Too long you have known
The faces of those whom I should never have seen,
Too long blind to those for whom I was searching!
From this hour, go in darkness! (Sophocles 830)

glossary of greek myphology
* The version of Sophocles has become the most authoritative and was used as the prime example of tragedy by Aristotle in his Poetics. In 1910 Freud identified the Oedipus complex (the word "complex" was first coined by Jung, however) using Oedipus as the pattern of the son "directing his infantile sexual impulses toward [his] mother" and his "first impulses of hatred and resistance toward [his] father." Freud's discovery has been seminal and it has led to many modern interpretations in literature, drama, music, ballet, and art.

POV * pure war * popculture v. art * tech * Post-AmeriKa * HIM

* Martha Graham's ballet, Night Journey, is a moving and profound exploration of the Oedipus legend in terms of Jocasta's tragedy. Graham notes: "... it is not Oedipus who is the protagonist. The action turns upon that instant of Jocasta's death when she relives her destiny, sees with double insight the triumphal entry of Oedipus, their meeting, courtship, marriage, their years of intimacy which were darkly crossed by the blind seer, Tiresias, until at last the truth burst from him."
A Graham dance inspired by mythology elucidates the myth from the point of view of the heroine; it is an exploration of the inner world of the feminine soul or better, psyche, with all of the Freudian implications that this word evokes. Another vital element in her art is its sublime eroticism: "I know my dances and technique are considered deeply sexual, but I pride myself in placing onstage what most people hide in their deepest thoughts."
To enhance appreciation of Martha Graham's genius one should read her own lengthy analysis of her "highly erotic dance" between Jocasta and Oedipus (Martha Graham, Blood Memory, New York: Doubleday, 1991, pp. 212-217).

Stravinsky wrote the opera in 1926-1927 to a libretto based on Sophocles´ tragedy Oedipus Rex, reworked and translated into Latin by Jean Cocteau. The opera was first performed in concert at 'Paris´Theatre' Sarah Bernhardt and was conducted by Stravinsky. One year later at the Wiener Staatsoper, the stage version of the opera was premiered.

shows tour:
LAIUS is left an orphaned minor by his father Labdacus

AMPHION AND ZETHUS rule Thebes (Build the Cadmeia) and exile Laius (B. Powell, Classical Myth p. 480)

Laius goes to live in Elis (PISA) with King Pelops (son of Tantalus son of Zeus)

Laius becomes very good friends with young Chrysippus, youngest child of King Pelops

Laius and Chrysippus run away together. Pelops curses Laius. (Powell, 482)

Laius returns to Thebes and becomes King

Laius marries his cousin (?) Jocasta, but they are childless

Laius goes to Delphi and intends to ask Apollo's advice; Apollo announces that Laius will have a child who will kill him (B. Powell, p. 482)

Laius and Jocasta have a baby son (Oedipus) whom they plan to kill. The royal shepherd is ordered to dispose of the child on Mt. Cithaeron. Instead he gives Oedipus to the royal Corinthian shepherd.

The Royal Corinthian Shepherd takes the child back to the childless king and queen of Corinth (Polybus and Merope), who adopt him.

At about the age of 18, at a dinner party, one of Oedipus' friends makes a rude remark about his not being a real Corinthian but only adopted. Oedipus is shocked and shamed, and goes off to Delphi to ask Apollo about the truth.

Apollo tells Oedipus he is doomed to kill his father and sleep with his mother.

Oedipus kills his father (within hours, at The Three Ways)

Oedipus kills the SPHINX on the way from the Three Ways to Thebes

Oedipus is received at Thebes as a national hero, and invited to marry the recently widowed queen Jocasta.

Oedipus and Jocasta have four children: Eteocles and Polyneices, Antigone and Ismene.

As the first Oedipus play (Oedipus Tyrannos) opens, there is sterility and a plague at Thebes; Oedipus sends to Delphi to ask Apollo what is wrong. Apollo sends a reply that they should find King Laius' murderer and then either kill him (retaliation, vengeance) or expel him from Theban territory.

A messenger arrives from Corinth to announce that the King of Corinth is dead. Oedipus learns that he is not the son of the King of Corinth but a Theban. The Royal Theban Shepherd (who gave Oedipus to the Royal Corinthian Shepherd) is summoned and tells Oedipus who his parents really are. (Powell, p. 485).

As this is happening, Jocasta runs off stage and hangs herself in her bedroom (like Phaedra). Oedipus runs after her, to kill her, but is too late. Shamed at his ancestry and predicament, he blinds himself. (Powell, p. 486)

After consultation, it is decided to expel Oedipus from Thebes. His two sons agree, as does his brother-in-law (Uncle) Creon. Daughter Antigone goes with Oedipus.

It is decided that the brothers will share the throne of Thebes, alternating one year each. Eteocles goes first, and is supported by Uncle Creon. (Powell, p. 489)

Oedipus comes to COLONUS in Attica, to a Grove of the Furies. He is given hospitality by King Theseus. (Powell, p. 490)

The elder brother Eteocles refuses to resign the kingship to Polyneices at the end of the first year of the Royal Condominium. A civil war breaks out, with Polyneices trying to recruit an army from Argos (Aeschylus, The Seven against Thebes).

Apollo reveals to the Thebans that whoever possesses the person of Oedipus is fated to win a war at Thebes.

Eteokles, king of Thebes, sends Uncle Creon to get Oedipus back.

Polyneices, King-elect of Thebes (in exile in Argos), comes looking for Oedipus

OEDIPUS IS GIVEN SANCTUARY AT COLONUS (a country district in Athens, about ten miles outside of town along the main road to Eleusis). At Colonus there is a Grove of the Furies, a shrine of Demeter, and a shrine of Poseidon. King Theseus, who happens to be coming to the shrine of Poseidon to sacrifice, personally intervenes when Uncle Creon tries to kidnap Oedipus.

Oedipus curses his sons for their callousness and self-interest. (Powell, p. 491).

Polyneices, who accepts the curse and the inevitability of his death, asks his sister Antigone (who is also his aunt) to be sure that he is given a proper burial. She takes an oath to do so.

Thunder and portents are heard from the sky: Oedipus knows that it is his last moment on earth.

Death (?) of Oedipus (B. Powell, p. 492)

The war at Thebes (Hesiod, Five Ages of Humanity; Powell, p. 134-136) THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES results in (a) the self-sacrifice of Creon's son Menoecius; (b) the deaths in combat of both of Oedipus' sons. (Powell, p. 493-6)

ANTIGONE returns to Thebes to fulfill her oath and family obligations.

But in the meantime Uncle Creon has been made tyrannos of Thebes (in some versions he is only Regent, for Eteocles' infant son Laodamas), and he issues an edict that he will punish with burial alive anyone who dares to bury the body of the traitor Polyneices (an act of hybris on his part, as well as taking an oath without realizing its consequences).

Protests come from the Theban elders and from Creon's own son Haemon. (Powell, p. 497-8)

Antigone and Haemon (who were betrothed a long time before) fall in love.

Antigone buries Polyneices, and is found out by Creon.

Antigone is buried alive. Haemon hides in the cave ahead of time, intending to break out when the walling-in is done, and then to run away with Antigone and live happily ever after. Antigone has not been so informed, and therefore hangs herself as soon as she is put in the cave. When Haemon discovers this unhappy fact, he commits suicide too. (Powell, p. 499)

King Creon has a sudden change in heart and orders Antigone released. But he finds her dead, and his son too.

A messenger tells Queen Eurydice (Creon's wife) that her son is dead. She curses Creon, goes into the Royal Marriage chamber, and hangs herself.

Theseus invades Thebes and forces Creon to allow the burial of the various Argive dead.

Creon's daughter Megara marries the son of Alcmene and Amphitryon (really of ZEUS) HERAKLES.

Creon is assassinated by LYKOS the Younger, a descendant of the Lykos of Thebes who was the successor in the kingship immediately after LABDACUS. Lykos was killed by HERAKLES. Laodamas ruled Thebes until it was destroyed by the EPIGONOI. Creon's son Lycomedes served in the Trojan War.



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