Sunday, October 13, 2013

31 Days of Books: Oedipus Tyrannus

Title: Oedipus Tyrannus (or Oedipus Rex, for those who prefer Latin)

Author:  Sophocles

Published:  C. 429 BC

Year I read it:  2005, 2011

One sentence summary:  Thebes is suffering from plague as a consequence of King Oedipus's unwittingly and unknown self-fulfilled prophecy that he will murder his father and sleep with his mother.

Interesting fact:  While the trilogy this play was a part of did not take home 1st prize at the City Dionysia, since Aristotle it has been considered the greatest of the Greek tragedies.

Three reasons to read it:

  • It's not just Aristotle - this play is widely considered one of the best written plays of all time.
  • Sophocles goes to great lengths to heighten dramatic irony within the play and, in so doing, he creates nail-biting suspense.  This obviously makes him the precursor and inspiration for the dramatic irony in Shakespeare.  [By the way, for more incredible dramatic irony, read Seneca's Phaedra - SO good!]
  • This is one of the greatest classics and it's short - only 65 pages.  It's also a remarkably accessible play if you're just entering (or re-entering the classics).  I personally recommend this translation.

One reason you maybe shouldn't:

  • It is about a man who's murdered his father and slept with his mother.  I must clarify that he didn't do either intentionally or knowingly, but it is the central conflict of the play.

Great quotes:

"No river is great enough, not the Danube, 
Not the Phasis, to wash this house clean.
So deep is the stain of evil here. 
Soon it will come to light:
The worst pain is self-chosen, deliberate."

"How dreadful the knowledge of the truth can be 
When there’s no help in truth.” 

“How terrible-- to see the truth when the truth is only pain to him who sees!” 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for doing a review on this! I have yet to read any Roman or Greek plays, mostly due to not knowing where to start. I will have to read these.