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Antigone: Pre-Reading Background

The story of Oedipus

Adrienne Lovejoy

on 2 May 2012

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Transcript of Antigone: Pre-Reading Background

Sophocles’ Antigone Lived during the Golden Age of Athens Was a member of the middle class and served in the New Democracy and as a priest Wrote 123 plays, only 7 of which survive Is based on the myth of Oedipus It's the third play in a trilogy There was once a king named Laius who ruled over Thebes, with Jocasta his wife. To them an Oracle had foretold that if their son lived to grow up, he would one day kill his father and marry his own mother. The ancient citizens of Greece would sacrifice and pray to an ORACLE. An oracle was a priest or priestess who would send a message from the gods to mortals who brought their requests. The king and queen resolve to escape such a doom, even at terrible cost. Accordingly, Laius gives his son, who was only a baby, to a certain herdsman, with instructions to put him to death. The herdsman leaves the baby alone to die. By chance, a servant of the king and queen of the nearby city of Corinth comes across Oedipus. He takes the baby back to the king and queen and they adopt him as their own, as they have no children themselves. Oedipus grows up and learns of the oracle’s fortune. Believing the king and queen of Corinth are his birth parents, he leaves the city of Corinth to avoid his fate and heads towards Thebes. It happened that King Laius, with one attendant, is on his way to Delphi from the city Thebes. In a narrow road he meets this strange young man, also driving in a chariot, and orders him to get out of the way. Oedipus, who had been raised to princely honors, refuses to obey The king's chariot driver, in great anger, kills one of the young man's horses. At this insult Oedipus falls upon master and servant; mad with rage, he kills them both, and goes on his way, not knowing the half of what he had done. The first prophecy of the Oracle is fulfilled. There was a creature called the Sphinx, which had been a terror to Thebes for many days. In form half woman and half lion, she crouched near the highway and put the same mysterious question to every passer-by. None had ever been able to answer, and none had ever lived to warn men of the riddle; for the Sphinx killed everyone who failed. This way came Oedipus towards the city Thebes, and the Sphinx crouched, face to face with him, and spoke the riddle that none had been able to guess. "What animal is that which in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" Oedipus, hiding his dread of the terrible creature, took thought, and answered "Man. In childhood he creeps on hands and knees, in manhood he walks erect, but in old age he has need of a staff." At this reply the Sphinx dies. Oedipus had guessed the answer. When he came to the city and told the Thebans that their torment was gone, they reward him by making him king. For years Oedipus lives in peace, unwitting; but after some time, disease and hunger spreads through the city. In his distress, the king sends to the Oracle at Delphi to know what he or the Thebans had done, that they should be so sorely punished. Then for the third time the Oracle speaks of Oedipus' fateful sentence; and Oedipus learns all. Jocasta, horrified, hangs herself Oedipus takes his doom upon himself, stabbing out his own eyes. After mutilating himself, Oedipus wanders out of Thebes and into the wilderness with his daughter Antigone As Polyneces goes off to raise an army, Oedipus returns to the wilderness with his daughters. Here he dies and Antigone and Ismene return to Thebes. With Oedipus gone and wandering the wilderness, Antigone’s brothers, Eteokles and Polyneces, are to rule Thebes in alternate years. Eteokles bribes the men of Thebes to turn against Polyneces and refuses to give up the throne for Polyneces at the end of his year. Before leaving to Argos, Polyneces asks his sisters, Antigone and Ismene, to give him a proper burial should he die in battle. Eteokles and Polyneces kill each other in battle. Antigone’s uncle, Kreon, becomes king of Thebes. Kreon gives Eteokles, his ally, a hero’s burial and issues a decree against burying Polyneces. Polyneces' body is left outside the city to rot and be eaten by wild animals. Antigone believes that he is wrong and that both of her brothers should be buried with honor... The Author The Trilogy A Horrifying Fate Oedipus Rex A Twin Death Oedipus at Colonus The Curse Continues Antigone Sophocles 496-406 B.C. Greek Playwright Career They marry him with great honor to their widowed queen, Jocasta, his own mother. The destiny is fulfilled. The two had four beautiful children: Polyneces, Eteokles (sons), Antigone, and Ismene (daughters). Yes...she was his daughter AND his sister... Oedipus returns home with Antigone and learns of what happened. Polyneces tells his father that he will go to Argos (A nearby city) to raise an army to gain the throne. Oedipus tells his son that he wishes him a terrible fate for planning such a thing. While Antigone and Ismene are on their way back to Thebes, Polyneces brings his supporters from Argos and wages a battle against his brother, Eteokles And that's where the final saga begins...
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