Unraveling the Riddle of Oedipus
PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER’S STUDY GUIDE
Oedipus the King
Translated by William Butler Yeats
September 28 – October 29, 2006
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Works by Sophocles
THOUGHTS FROM THE DIRECTOR
OEDIPUS THE KING
The Riddle of the Sphinx
Why Ancient Greece Matters
Ancient Greek Theater
Sophocles (495-405 B.C) was one of the great playwrights of the golden age of Greek Drama.
The son of a wealthy merchant, he enjoyed all the comforts
of a thriving Greek empire. He studied all of the arts. By the age of sixteen, he was already known for his beauty and
grace and was chosen to lead a choir of boys at a celebration of the victory of Salamis. Twelve years later, his studies
complete, he was ready to compete in the City Dionysia--a
festival held every year at the Theatre of Dionysus in which new plays were presented.
Sophocles, as depicted in a
Roman portrait bust
In his first competition, in 468 B.C, Sophocles took first
prize. More than 120 plays were to follow. He would go on
to win at least eighteen first prizes. An accomplished actor, Sophocles performed in many of his own plays. However,
his voice was comparatively weak, and eventually he would
give up his acting career to pursue other ventures.
In addition to his theatrical duties, Sophocles served for many years as an ordained priest of Alcon and Asclepius, the god of medicine. He also served on the Board of Generals, a committee that administered civil and military affairs in Athens, and for a time he was director of the Treasury, controlling the funds of the association of states known as the Delian Confederacy.
One of the great innovators of the
theatre, he was the first to add a
third actor, which offered greater
Of Sophocles' more than 120 plays,
only seven have survived in their
entirety. Of these, Oedipus the
King is generally considered his
greatest work...often heralded as a
"perfectly structured" play.
Like many Ancient Greek names, that of
Sophocles (Σοφοκλης) has a meaning. A
compound of σοφός (sophos) "wise" and
κλέος (kleos) "glory", Sophocles' name
translates to "famous for wisdom."
WORKS BY SOPHOCLES
(between 450 and 440 B.C.)
(c. 441 B.C.)
Oedipus the King
(c. 430 to 425 B.C.)
(c. 418 to 410 B.C.)
(c. 413 B.C.)
Oedipus at Colonus
Statue of Sophokles from Museo Gregoriano Profano
FROM THE DIRECTOR
Ted Pappas on staging a Greek Classic:
“I first read Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ Oedipus the King in English as part of a high school world literature course. But my exposure to the Greek myths and Greek history began much earlier. I spent many summers and several years as a child in Greece. It was not unusual to pass the ruins of an ancient temple on the way to school or the grocery store. Greeks live in casual comfort with their history. We still give our children names like Electra or Agamemnon. Just ask my cousin Antigone or my Uncle Socrates. “Greek plays are difficult to cast and even harder to stage…[but] for me one of the joys of directing the classics is the research involved. I feel as if I’m transported to another time and place. Understanding the playwright’s audience helps me to understand the themes and meanings of the play. Studying the architecture, scenic devises, and traditions of the classical Greek theater helps me in staging the show in the O’Reilly. “The plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were the Star Wars adventures of their time – full...
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