April 3, 2013
Oedipus the King by Sophocles: What's so Greek about It?
Well, I assume everybody knows the plot, so no need to remind you of it. However I'd like to say that I don't understand why everybody thinks this a story about perversity, about sexual desire to one's mother, which is even named "Oedipus's complex". Come on, people, he never knew it was his mother! And when it was revealed he took his eyes out. He is a normal man, it is just his bad fate. So I think the story is about Fate, with the capital letter. You are not getting away no matter what you try.
But I wanted to discuss form rather than the story here. And here is what is the most striking:
1) Nothing happens on the scene. There are murders, suicides and other atrocities, but we know about them only from the dialogues. Well, I guess it's difficult to stage taking out one's eyes believably, but the murder - why not? As a result, the whole play looks like a session of some club of old gossipers, and it is hard to believe in the misery of the characters, as they appear only to read their monologues.
2) There is chorus, which acts for the mob and sometimes also for the reader, as it "unobtrusively" hints what everybody should feel about the events. I don't like anybody telling me what to feel, and it's quite irritating when something is going to happen (well, not really happen, but be discussed rather :) ), but you need to read the laments of the chorus before. Were those pauses made to give the public time to go to the toilet in the middle of the play, I wonder? ;)
3) You are supposed to know the story BEFORE you read or watch the play. Otherwise you'll have no chance to understand what has Oedipus done to become a king. There is a hint about the Sphinx, but it is not told directly. Well, I guess that everybody knew it then, but still it's rather inconsiderate :)
It may partially be my fault that I expected too much of such a renown play, but I was rather disappointed. It will not divert me from further reading of Greek plays, of course, not yet at least, but for now I really prefer Shakespeare. I enjoy some real drama on the scene!