Sophocles Classical Tragedies
Sophocles was born in 495 B.C in Colonus village near Athens. He is recognized for his literary contribution just like Aeschylus who came thirty years before him and Euripides fifteen years later. Sophocles’ father, Sophilus was a man of excellent repute and wealth who gave him the opportunity to study literary studies during his age. Sophocles abilities were refined in his attendance of poetry and art of music instructions. He further exercised palæstra to perfect his natural graces. By the age of fifteen he was already conducting lyre and dance chorus which were of high triumph at Salamis his country. Sophocles dramatic career came at a time when Theseus hero highlighted in the plays of Aeschylus was being replaced by Cimon from Scyros isle to Athens. Archon was responsible in administering the oath to Cimon and his followers unlike in the years before when judges were selected by the lot according to customary practices. Sophocles won his first prize because of his tragic art style and the subject that the poet incorporated. Since then Sophocles continued to exhibit and compose satiric and tragedies dramas for more than sixty years.
Of the 123 plays that Sophocles wrote in his life, seven of them survived as complete work. These are the Trachinian woman, Antigone, Oedipus the King. Electra, Ajax, Oedipus at Colonus and Philoctetes. The Antigone and Oedipus are the most famous tragedies by Sophocles. The plays are called the Theban plays despite them being of different tetralogy others were never stored. The major aspect which Sophocles introduced in drama is the third actor unlike in the earlier plays which place great importance on the role of the chorus in the plays plot. Also, unlike earlier plays he put emphasis in character development more than Aeschylus. These aspects placed the characters in the center stage and for enhancing the conflict among them. These innovations in dramatic structure made him earn great reputation from rulers from various regions of the world and competition prizes.
The Thebian plays, Oedipus the King, Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus are plays which are about the fate of Thebes after and during the rule of Oedipus the King. The Thebian plays are continuous narratives and not separate entities. The plays give a narration of the mythological Oedipus, a man who killed his father and married his mother without knowing that they were close relatives. This makes the whole family destined for doom for a period of three generations. Oedipus takes the role of a protagonist in the play Oedipus the king. At birth Oedipus parents, Jocasta and Laius plan to kill him to avoid the prophesy from the oracle. The servant entrusted to take baby Oedipus to the forest and kill him, does not do so because of the morality of the act and at the same time considering couples who were childless and desperate to have one. He therefore took the child to a childless couple he knew to adopt him without the knowledge of the child’s background.
As grown boy, Oedipus learns about the prophesy about him by the Delphic oracles. The prophesy was that he would kill his father and later marry his mother. Thinking that his foster parents are his biological parents, he runs away to avoiding harming his parents. At crossroads, Oedipus meets a man with servants. He confronts with the man leading to death of the man. This man is Laius, his biological father. Neither the servants nor anyone in the land knew this. It is only the gods. After solving the sphinx riddle, Oedipus becomes the ruler of Thebes. This means that as a new king will take the widow Queen Jocasta as his wife. This marks the start of horrors. The truth about the whole story is revealed from the goddess Delphi. This makes Jocasta to commit suicide while Oedipus removes his eyes and leaves Thebes destined to live the remaining of his life as a blind man. The ill fated children a product of incest are left confused to sort their own consequences seen in later plays.
The ultimate theme of tragedy is enhanced by Sophocles through the use of irony. in the first scene we see Oedipus wishing ill wish to the murderer of king Laius, he says,” I pray that the mans life may be consumed with wretchedness and evil..”(I, 234). Irony is also seen in the second scene where Oedipus confronts Creon on the basis that he is the murderer of Laius. He accuses him that, “so you dare come back, why? How brazen of you to come to my house, you murderer! (II, 504-506). Irony is also used to enhance the emotional impact of the play. The dialogue between the characters, the audience knows the truth which is unknown to the characters. The irony therefore acts the depth of the story on the portrayal of the characters. The Oedipus rex is one of the most referred to classical tragedies among the Greek which tells the story of a hero in tragic flaw, with dramatic irony and chorus. This creates well put together and interesting play. The fall of the hero makes the audience pities him
The second Thebian play, Oedipus at Colonus, is the story of the banished Oedipus and his daughters, Ismene and Antigone after arriving in Colonus town. They meet with the king of Athens, Theseus. Oedipus dies in Colonus and his sons Eteocles and Polyneices enter into conflict. The play Antigone is about Oedipus daughter as the protagonist. She encounters the challenge of choosing between leaving the body of her brother Polyneices to be outside the city walls and unburied where wilds animals would ravage his body or to go ahead and bury him and face as a consequence. Creon king of the land has forbidden the burial of Polyneices because he is the city’s traitor. With the filial love for his brother, Antigone goes ahead to bury the body of his brother and face the wrath of the king. She is sentenced to death by King Creon. Eventually Creon decides to pardon her and release her, but this comes when is too late because Antigone had already committed suicide. The King is also deeply affected because the suicide of Antigone triggers the death of Haemon who intended to marry Antigone, the king’s son. The queen witnessing the death of her only remaining son also decides commit suicide.
The tragic plays by Sophocles have contributed to modern dram development because they serve as models to other dramatic works. His plays have remained popular over the years because of themes which are universal and present the mystery of a classic murder.
Sophocles (1982) Oedipus Rex New York: Bantam classics