Monday, January 23, 2012

Sophocles Uses A Well-Known Greek Legend, In Sophocles, To Engage His Audience

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Oedipus the King Essay


During the time before the birth of Christ many civilizations were born and broken. Ancient Greece was a particularly renowned civilization because of the many major leaps in all cultural and academic aspects. It was at this time that modern theatre began. The legend of Oedipus was a story that everyone knew but it was Sophocles who turned this story into a masterpiece. The legend of Oedipus is about Oedipus, the King of Thebes, and his quest to find the murderer of the previous King, Laius. The qualities of Oedipus’ character cause a prophecy to be uncovered, and the murderer that Oedipus is searching for turns out to be Oedipus himself. Sophocles had a unique playwriting style that fully engaged his audience, in both ancient and contemporary times. To engage his audience, Sophocles used universal and controversial themes, structured the play specially, used dramatic irony, and emphasized the character of Oedipus.


The interest of the audience is indisputably captured by Oedipus. Many novels feature a hero, for example, in fantasy texts there is often a hero who wields special powers or a magical item. This hero is used to engage the audience in awe, wonder and interest. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is the hero. He has many fine Athenian qualities, such as determination, intelligence, nobleness, and being quick to act, and thus the plot revolves around this wondrous character. “So I will fight for him as if he were my father, stop at nothing, search the world…” This shows just what a heroic character Oedipus is. The audience is even more rapt by Oedipus when he inescapably convicts himself of murder and incest, and resolves to blind and banish himself. “I’d never have come to this, my father’s murderer�never been branded mother’s husband, all men see me now!” As Oedipus falls from a glorious hero to a blind and powerless murderer, the audience is further enthralled by this character. Sophocles uses this character to mesmerize the audience as they watch the play.


Sophocles uses dramatic irony in the play to captivate the viewer. Sophocles clearly uses this technique when Oedipus says, “I pity you. I see�how could I fail to see what longings bring you here?” Dramatic irony is evident because Oedipus is saying that he pities and can see the strife of the people, when really it is him, who is blind to the truth, and him that is to be pitied. This technique utilizes the fact that the audience, in ancient times, is aware of the plot although the characters in the play are not. Sophocles uses this technique to influence the audience to feel sympathy, compassion and pity for the characters. The audience feels the urge to aid the helpless characters as they hurtle forward in their quest for discovery.


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Sophocles has supplemented the well-known legend of Oedipus with universal and controversial themes to create the play Oedipus the King. His use of contentious themes fascinates the audience as they are largely interested in how the characters deal with murder, incest, arrogance towards the Gods, fate, prophecy and death. In addition, these themes are still relevant to today’s society. When Oedipus ridicules Tiresias and the Gods, the audience is fascinated by this conflict of beliefs in fate and free will, “…you and your birds, your gods�nothing.” By including these universal and controversial themes, Sophocles has created another aspect to enthrall the observer.


Sophocles captivates the spectators furthermore by the way in which he structures the chorus to participate in the play. The tragic chorus, often known just as the chorus, was an important part of Greek tragedy because of the way it interacted with the characters and the audience. During the play the chorus sang and conversed with the characters, often singing of extreme horror, love, joy, or hate. The chorus helped to engage the audience in many ways. Firstly, the chorus was often used to represent the public. This meant that the audience could relate first-hand to the characters and therefore the play too. For example, just after Tiresias the prophet has said that Oedipus is the murderer himself, the chorus reveals in their song, “Never will I convict my king, never in my heart.” These loyal words are portraying the public opinion. Secondly, the chorus frequently spoke of past or unseen events that were necessary for the audience’s appreciation of the plot. Finally, the chorus sung and danced regularly. This was often an exiting spectacle which undoubtedly captivated the onlookers’ interests. All together, the chorus played a crucial part in ancient Greece theatre. It definitely captured the viewer’s attention.


Sophocles does indeed use a well-known Greek legend to engage his audience. To do this he constructs the play around a hero, Oedipus, employs dramatic irony, exploits universal and controversial themes, and utilizes the chorus. Through these techniques Sophocles has changed an ancient Greek legend, to a play that is incredibly fascinating to watch. Sophocles’ play, Oedipus the King, is as relevant today as it was in the time of the great playwright himself.





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