An essential element in the conception of tragedy, from its Greek beginnings through its various transformations to the modern stage, is a focus on the significance of emotion in human experience. In the Greek context this is manifested (a) in the role of emotion as an element in perception and a consequent motivator of action, and (b) as the process of feeling (or perception) to action on the part of individuals is resolved into a pattern (the narrative) which is the manifestation of divine will. In effect tragedy as a form encapsulates an inherent conflict between a human world of feeling and limited perception and a non-human world of arbitrary forces. The same structure and dynamic informs tragedies of other periods, from Shakespeare's christianised conflict of good and evil, to Becket's void in Godot. The dramatic force of Greek tragedies on a modern stage arises from this dynamic and the essentially ironic theatrical relationship that it generates between stage and audience.
OC differs from its companion plays (OT and Ant) in one important respect - the latter resolve the ironic relation between stage and audience in the intense finality of the tragic climax, thus foregrounding the characters in the context of their tragic world. OC maintains a wider focus on the nature of the world itself, in which the vast emotional range of Oedipus is drawn explicitly into the metaphysical structure, while the remaining characters continue to stumble on in a world that is beyond their immediate comprehension. The play is perhaps Sophocles' most explicit delineation of a tragic world and the manner in which natural forces manifest themselves through the emotional lives of human beings.
The clips that follow attempt to explicate the dual emotional structure of the play. Individual episodes are characterised by emotional pressures which drive the characters through a continuous narrative that encompasses past and future (specifically OT and Ant). The narrative is divinity at work and has its own emotional characteristics; ie, the powers of love, hate and their variants, which are exhibited in the world itself and which are beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals, even as they are affected by them.
There is a smaller and a larger version of each clip, to cater for different connection speeds.
The free QuickTime Plugin necessary to view these clips can be downloaded from http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/.
2. Lines 204-91. The Chorus, in their need to know who or what Oedipus is, inspire through their fear a revelation of something that is more than the mere beggar that they see. (2.5M file) (4.9M file)
3. Lines 607-67. Theseus is goaded and so drawn by his emotional response (rather than his judgement) to commit himself more absolutely, and so is absorbed into the pattern of the play. (2.5M file) (4.9M file)
Oedipus at Colonus, produced at the Globe Theatre, Dunedin, New Zealand, July 2000.
Filmed and edited by University of Otago Audio-visual Unit.
Translated and directed by Harry Love.
Oedipus Ralph Johnson
Antigone Julie Edwards
Ismene Lorina Harding
Polynices Vincent Wong
Theseus David Holmes
© Classic Productions and The University of Otago 2000
University of Otago, NZ