Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

published June 1st 1991 by Dover Publications (first published -429BCE)
details Paperback, 54 pages
isbn 0486268772 (isbn13: 9780486268774)

Considered by many the greatest of the classic Greek tragedies, Oedipus Rex is Sophocles' finest play and a work of extraordinary power and resonance. Aristotle considered it a masterpiece of dramatic construction and refers to it frequently in the Poetics.

I'm currently doing an online course that requires a bit of reading, so I thought it might be fun to share what I've discovered while doing research into the first play I was assigned, Oedipus Rex, and offer up my personal (mostly parodied) review of this classic Greek tragedy.

Oedipus is a well known, unfortunate, figure in literature, but here are a few things that have irked me or made me go "Hmmm?" as I re-read the story:

1) Didn't Oedipus realize that the woman he married was old enough to be his mother? I know back then, the marrying age was considerably less strict than now, but still, really?! There had to have been about 12-15 years between, at a minimum.

2) More to the point, didn't Jocasta realize this about the man that she married and had 2 children with? Especially with his name meaning "swollen feet", didn't she even notice Oedipus had scars on his feet that matched what had been done to him as a baby by his father?  The medical treatments were far less sophisticated in those days, it should have been painfully obvious in sandals. Someone needed to offer these people a clue!

3) This seeming obliviousness was wisely prophetic on the part of Sophocles as from then on, it seems that many leaders of countries over the years have suffered the same affliction: not so much the swollen feet or marrying their own mothers, but the lack of grasping the more important things in life, ie. the greater good of the country.

4) Why would Oedipus gouge his own eyes out? Wouldn't it have achieved more poetic justice if he'd gone all Lorena Bobbit on himself? That seemed to be the bigger well as the part about murdering his father, I guess.

On this last point, I offer you the only complete video I could find online of this play. Please enjoy this rendition, well performed by veggies. (I have a strange craving for those yummy Greek potatoes from Mr Greek, with the tomato sauce on them...)


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

You know this is one of those books I didn't have to read in college. I would have loved to read it though. I always enjoyed reading the Greek tragedies and such. Thanks for the review! :)

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