(briefly) on Oedipus Rex

The-Chorus--(Brid-Ni-Chumhaill--Ann-Marie-Taaffe--Audrey-McCoy--Martin-Burns-and-Liam-Heslin) [The Chorus (Bríd Ní Chumhaill, Ann-Marie Taaffe, Audrey McCoy, Martin Burns and Liam Heslin) in ‘Oedipus the King’. Photo: Marius Tatu]


As we know, Oedipus Rex is perhaps the oldest play that is still being produced today. The above image is taken from the production of this 2,000+ year old play put on by Classic Stage Ireland in July of 2010, directed by Andy Hinds. This production brings the characters into more modern time, setting the play in a post-war era and dressing them in a very contemporary “non specific, peasant-like costumes” with a “dull khaki palette” (Irish Theatre Magazine). I believe I would have enjoyed this production.

Theatrical choices aside, the allure of this play is first and foremost the fact that it bares a message that is still relevant today. Sophocles’ tragic hero, Oedipus’ tragic flaw is his own hubris. A pride so intense that blinds him from seeing the truth, and thereby leading him to such blasphemies as incest and patricide. The Oedipal Complex is another modern-day psychological term that has its roots in Sophocles’ ancient play; it is a complex that causes a son to have sexual desires or thoughts toward his mother and jealous feelings toward his father.

Obviously, this play, though done (and many may argue overdone) many times over, still has a strong and transcendent message, that I believe should be perpetuated. I’m glad that more modern versions of the play are being produced, for as relate-able as the themes of jealousy and the malignancy of hubris are, ancient Greek costuming and language can make an audience feel a strong disconnect to Sophocles’ brilliance.


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