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Greek Tragedy and Oedipus

Teaching notes on Greek Tragedy and Oedipus

Tony Russell

on 27 January 2011

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Transcript of Greek Tragedy and Oedipus

Greek Theater, Tragedy, and Oedipus Rex Why was the theater an important part of Greek (Athenian) society? Plays were only presented twice a year, both times at religious festivals celebrating the god of wine and crops, Dionysus
January - Festival of Lenaea, or festival of the winepress: typically comedies (plays that have a happy ending, usually one wedding or more)
March - Athens' Great Dionysia, a celebration that included parades, prizes, sacrifices, and a three-day drama competition The Greeks and the Great Dionysia Theater Competition Athenians felt that competition strengthened and honed one's skills
The Great Dionysia theater competition was just as much a civic event as a religious one.
The head civil magistrate of Athens would designate three choregos (sing. choregoi) to act as producers for three major playwrights. (All paid for by the city-state.)
Each night of the festival (there were three altogether) featured a tragedy, a play which highlights the fall of a great and noble protagonist.
Each tragedy was followed by a lesser play called a satyr play, which was a burlesque-style parody, usually characterized by sexuality and drunkenness. comedy
The Great Dionysia
satyr So what did it all look like? sta stairways wedge-shaped
seating arrangement auditorium auditorium; more properly, seating area separate walkways circular, dancing space for the Chorus (of Dionysus) side entrance, place through which the Chorus enters, singing "speaking place,"
stage prep building or tent The Chorus inhabited the Orchestra.
The actors spoke from the logeion.
Only three actors were on stage at a time.
The skene often functioned as a backdrop. It would also house the machinery for a Deus ex machina ("god out of the machine").
Actors (only male) wore personae (masks) and eventually cothurni (thick-soled shoes to make them look larger). So what did it look like? Chorus
Deus ex machina

Of Athens' 40,000 citizens, between 14,000 and 17,000 would fit in the theater.
Athenians believed that the theater was a proper place for moral and political education.
Tragedy was the highest art form.
It often dabbled in political conflict, with issues such as women's roles in society and the role of immigrants. Euripides' "Medea" is one such example.
The key to tragedy was in its ability to elicit "pity and fear." Besides entertainment, what role did these dramas play in Athenian society? "pity and fear" So where do we get our concept of the Greek hero? http://l.yimg.com/eb/ymv/us/img/hv/photo/movie_pix/warner_brothers/troy/brad_pitt/troy2.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_hXvkEsNv-Zo/SOvhbi5p8SI/AAAAAAAAARo/fuLR6oYMcmo/s400/Oedipus+in+black+and+white.jpg "Tragedy is an imitation of an action of high importance, complete and of some amplitude; in language enhanced by distinct and varying beauties; acted not narrated; by means of pity and fear effecting its purgation (katharsis) of these emotions."
- Aristotle, Poetics, Chapter 6 The Tragic Hero Figure According to Aristotle http://www.isit20.com/membres/dam5s/7117_leonidas_home.png a person of "high estate" fallible (has a tragic flaw) hamartia hubris error, transgression, flaw or weakness in character excessive pride and overconfidence characteristics of the Tragic Hero (person of "high estate")
the Tragic Flaw (hubris and/or hamartia)
What types of things should the reader (audience) be looking for in Greek Tragedy? Aristotle "pity and fear effecting its purgation (katharsis) of these emotions" Katharsis a sense of relief 1. may refer to the sense of releasing one's pent-up emotions during and after watching a tragedy
2. may refer to the purifying and ennobling of one's feelings after watching a tragedy
3. may refer to how the tragedy speaks to one's sense of "rightness" How does the tragedy ultimately make me feel better in the end? What types of things should the reader (audience) be looking for in Greek Tragedy? Recognition Reversal Recognition (anagnorisis)

(peripety) a discovery or revelation about one's identity that is previously unknown in the play; also refers to the moment when the hero realizes that s/he has been responsible for her/his own undoing
can refer to a fall from riches or happiness; when Aristotle speaks of Reversal (or peripety), he refers to an action made by the hero that has the opposite effect of what was originally intended

Clifford Leech states, "To see things plain--that is anagnorisis. It is what tragedy ultimately is about: the realization of the unthinkable." http://www.g1nbc.com/college/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/achilles-heel.jpg Things to look for while reading "Oedipus the King" What things make Oedipus a Tragic Hero?
What is Oedipus' major Recognition (discovery, anagnorisis)?
What things serve as a Reversal (peripety) for Oedipus?
What does "Oedipus the King" have to do with "seeing?"
How would you describe the tension between Religion and the State in this play?
Is Oedipus in control of his own destiny?
What is his problem--hubris (excessive pride) or hamartia (fatal error)?
What sense of catharsis (Katharsis, purgation) do you feel after reading the play? Do "pity and fear" drive you to this feeling?
This play focuses primarily on a prophecy from the god Apollo, but this play is written for a festival dedicated to Dionysus. So where does Dionysus fit into the play? Tragic Hero
Katharsis Notes on the Chorus
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