Thursday, 30 August 2012

Oedipus Myth – A Synopsis with key features in respect to Strauss example

Thebes was a principal city, originally named ‘Cadmeia’ after its founder Cadmus (Cadmos). It was later renamed as Thebes after the wife of Zethus. It was one of the prominent cities during the classical period and home to Pindar the great lyric poet who wrote odes on the Olympic and Pythian games (early 5th century BC).

Agenor was the father of Cadmus. Cadmus is sent by his father to seek out his sister Europa who is abducted by Zeus. He had four brothers, Phoenix, Cilix, Phineus and Thasus who to went in search of Europa. Cadmus went to the Oracle of Delphi who told him not to return to his father but to follow a heifer and build a city where it stopped. Cadmus follows a cow and builds Thebes at the spot where the cow sits. He then slays the dragon (sacred to the war god Ares) and is told by goddess Atehna to sow the teeth of the dragon in the earth. The Spartoi are born from the soil and they commence fighting till only five of them survive.    
Cadmus was punished for killing the dragon (in some versions serpent) and had to serve Cadmus for 8 years. He later married Harmonia (daughter of Ares and Aphrodite). Aphrodite was displeased and gave her daughter a cursed necklace. Polydorus was the only son born to Cadmus and the next king of Thebes. He dies early and so Nycteus rules as regent in place of the child king Labdacus (Laius’s father). However, his daughter Antiope is seduced by Zeus and has two sons, Amphion and Zethus. After Nycteus’s death, his brother Lycus orders his nieces sons to be left in Mount Cithaeron where they are discovered by a cowherd.

Later they are reunited to their mother and usurp the throne after killing Lycus. Due to this, Laius is sent away to Pisa. They renamed the city ‘Thebes’ and on their death Laius returned and became king. Lauis or Laios on his visit to the King of Pisa, Pelops, was appointed as chariot instructor to the King’s handsome illegitimate son, Chrysippus. He falls in love with the boy and abducts and rapes him resulting in Chrysippus’ suicide. Pelops loved  his son dearly and so curses Laius.
In some versions before Oedipus is born it is prophesied that he would kill his father Laius and marry his mother Jocasta. In other versions, Laius hears the prophecy after he marries Jocasta. He orders his infant son’s feet to be bound and the infant to be left at Mt Cithaeron. His mother takes pity on the child and asks a shepherd to take him to the neighbouring childless King. In other accounts, it is the shepherd leaves him and the infant is later discovered by a cowherd and taken to Queen Merope or Periboea; the wife of Polybus – king of Cornith.

Oedipus learns of the prophesy when he attains manhood. He flees the kingdom for he does not know about his adoption. Meanwhile, Laius is on his way to consult the oracle regarding the Sphinx’s riddle. Oedipus chances upon Laius on his flight as both of their chariots block their paths. An altercation follows that leads to the death of Laius. Creon (the brother-in-law) takes over the kingship.
Oedipus continues on his way and is met with the Sphinx and answers the riddle: What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening? Oedipus correctly answers that the creature is man. The Sphinx destroys herself by jumping from a mountain or drowning herself. Everyone perceives Oedipus to be a hero and he is offered the kingship along with the hand of the dowager queen; his mother Jocasta.

They had four children: Eteocles, Polyneices, Antigone and Ismene. The land suddenly begins to suffer from plague, amine and drought. The oracle tells King Oedipus that the root cause was Laius’ murder and so, Oedipus seeks the murderer. On the other hand, Polybus dies a natural death in Cornith. Teiresias the blind seer tells Oedipus that the plague is a result of an unnatural act. When Oedipus learns the truth he blinds himself while the Queen hangs herself as she learns the truth before Oedipus.
Creon rules again as Oedipus is exiled. His sons Eteocles and Polyneices are both supposed to rule each for a stipulated time but are unable to keep to the agreement and war breaks out. Eteocles is favoured by Creon and made king while Polyneices flees to Argos. Oedipus meanwhile, wanders the land with Antiope while Ismene moves back and forth from Colonus to Thebes to keep her father politically posted.
According to the Sophoclian version, Eteocles and Polyneices both visit their father in Colonus hoping that I either gains his blessing or support they would have more political clout. Oedipus disgusted with their failure to make up differences, curses them instead saying that each would result in the destruction o f the other. In another version, Creon kidnaps Antigone in order to force Oedipus to support Eteocles but Theseus the Athenian hero rescues her and allows Oedipus to die in peace after which he restores both the princesses to Thebes.

Eteocles and Polyneices die in single combat and Creon rules as regent to Eteocles son, Laodamas. He gives Eteocles a hero’s burial while forbidding anyone from burying  Polyneices. Antigone disobeys and buries her brother with dignity. For this act of disobedience, Creon ordered Antigone to be entombed alive. Haemon his son tries to save her for he loves her but his father refuses and Haemon kills himself. Haemon’s mother, Eurydice curses her husband due to her son’s untimely and unnatural death. She then proceeds to hang herself just like Jocasta.

No comments:

Post a Comment