Sophocles’ King Oedipus
King Oedipus was one of three Greek plays produced by Sophocles in the year 429 BC. The other two plays by Sophocles are Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus. Most of the plays’ plots produced in Greek involved god, goddesses or human heroes. The play King Oedipus consisted of eight dramatic personae and they were: Oedipus, Creon, Priest of Zeus, a chorus by Theban elder, Jocasta, Teiresias, herd of Laus and a messenger. Theaters in ancient Greeks included the use of chorus in plays; they were performed from the background concurrently with the play. The play consists of a strophe and an antistrophe. The chorus gave the audience a summary of what was taking place on the play. The chorus was performed by a group of members who gave comments collectively on the theme while dancing, singing, acting or narrating. The theme of the play King Oedipus is structured on fate and free will. Oedipus is a Greek word for swollen foot. This paper will basically trace the evolution of the views of the chorus in the play King Oedipus. It will also include the reflections on the chorus’s function, their relation to the King Oedipus and its conclusion at the end of the play.
The chorus in the play King Oedipus comes out to express the feelings of the characters in the play. The feelings which are in terms of fear, guilt or secrets are shown out to the audience to give them the insight and more understanding of the play. Most importantly Oedipus himself is full of secrets, guilt and fears which the audience is informed through the chorus. In the play on various occasions, the chorus poses out questions to the characters which are important in developing the play’s plot. We become aware of king Oedipus fate from the chorus. Oedipus’s fate is as a result of his father’s action before he became king Laus. Laus as a young boy abducted and raped Chrysippus, who in turn murdered himself out of suffering from shame. The oracle foretells that Laus will be killed by Oedipus his son. At times the chorus involves only a single person who speaks out on some lines. The chorus in the play separates the scenes in the plot (line 54).
The first presence of the chorus is witnessed in the palace when it is calling upon king Oedipus to aid in solving the plague problem. The plague in Thebes came as a result of the killing of king Laus. The chorus comes after the conversation between King Oedipus, Creon and the priest. The chorus depicts the cry of king Oedipus as he prays to the gods seeking help on the occurred plague. In the chorus King Oedipus cries of how his people have been undermined by the plague. Oedipus says that his people are hurt, and he is the one who is hurt the most by what has taken place in his land of Thebes. His people cannot defend themselves since they have no weapons. The king’s cry in the chorus continues as he asserts that the offspring of Thebes are growing no more and the women don’t go through labor in relief of giving birth. In the chorus the king claims that they have lost the total count of their dead citizens. All over the city corpses lie around, their mothers grey-haired and their wives youthful are crying and wailing everywhere. The chorus depicts that king Oedipus, is asking Zeus’s golden god daughter to send the people of Thebes strength and support. In the last parts of the chorus king Oedipus prays to the god of war Ares. He laments to Ares to turn back and leave their land since it has been filled with howling cries of the battle. The above first chorus is full of thoughts from king Oedipus mind. The thoughts are on him lamenting, repenting and praying to the gods to give them strength and support. King Oedipus is seen to be regretting his past actions of incest and patricide (line 458).
The chorus has acted as a second thought and also as an aid in the thought process, this is seen when it convinced king Oedipus to spare the life of Creon. King Oedipus wanted to execute Creon, he had earlier visited the oracle at Delphi who had revealed to him Oedipus secrets. The chorus advised king Oedipus to be cool. The situation in the story had become so complicated making the chorus to intervene and stop the atrocity of Oedipus killing Creon who was his uncle (line 790).
The last chorus in the play talks to the people of Thebes, it tells them to look at Oedipus their king. The chorus talks on the shame that has been associated by Oedipus who at one time was considered very powerful and wealthy. It states that the king has now been surged with a horrible disaster that is, the murder of his father king Laius and also committing of incest by marrying his own mother, Jocasta. The shame has made him a brother and a father to his daughters and also a son and a husband to his mother (line 1012).
In conclusion, the chorus has exemplified the actions of the characters and the resulting impacts of their actions. Occurrences both future and current have been revealed through the chorus. In particular at the initial stages of the play the chorus has brought the audiences up to speed on the play’s plot. The chorus has outlined Oedipus’s sense of incest and patricide. The audience comes to realize that the chorus has varied opinions on Oedipus. At first it praises Oedipus on his power and wealth, later after the discovery of his secrets it ridicules him on his actions, but at the end when Oedipus is remorseful the chorus becomes sympathetic to him.
Sophocles, Knox B. Oedipus the King. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print