VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature
Oedipus the Wreck
Rationale for the Cover Photo: Although Oedipus was held up by Aristotle as the architypal tragic hero, are the gods laughing at him or mourning his family for violating the taboos of family life--a curse that supposedly originated with his grandfather, Labdacus?
Oedipus of Thebes is a legend, possibly derived from a story that originated about the Thebes of ancient Egypt. The Greek version dramatized by Sophocles for an audience in Athens contains many elements of folk myth. The story would have been as familiar to the audience as the story of Jesus' life and passion is to Christians, so suspense comes not from wondering what will happen but from seeing the human reactions of characters to the events in their lives.
The rather flippant title of this site implies that Oedipus earned the very reputation he fled when he left Corinth & Delphi behind. Watching Oedipus destroy himself in this way is "like watching a train wreck"; we feel dread, we feel for him, but we know his ruin is inevitable.
Rationale for the Online Version Selected for the Sphinx Link: The text of this play is online at several locations. I've chosen the Perseus Project version at Tufts University because it is accompanied by several kinds of background information. The glossary at that site contains citations to translations of ancient works that mention the characters and the gods in the play. Why use the sphinx to represent this play? The answer to the riddle of the sphinx, which brought Oedipus to the throne (and queen) of Thebes, was not just "man" but one particular man who acted out that riddle during his lifetime--old "swollen foot" himself.
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