Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

May Books 9) Οιδίπους Τύραννος / Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles

I was reviewing the Norwegian list of the best 100 books recently, and realised that I could get some of them from BookMooch; this was the first to arrive, from Singapore.

It's really good. This is a play dating from about 430 BC, and we all know the story in advance, so I wondered how fresh it could possibly seem, but I really enjoyed reading it and would love to see it on stage. (I have seen Pasolini's film, but that's not quite the same.)

The interest is the interplay between the three main characters, Oedipus himself, Jocasta and her brother Cleon, as the story is unfolded to them by a succession of walk-ons (Tiresias, the messenger, the shepherd, etc) - although the plot covers the whole of Oedipus' life, the setting of the play respects the unities and takes place over a few hours or possibly days.

Sophocles uses the plot as a framework to meditate on fate and predestination (where his argument if largely of historical interest) and also to speculate on different kinds of sight and blindness (and here I think his thoughts are timeless; we can substitute all kinds of dogmas about planning and professionalism for the way he writes about prophecy).

I was reading the 1909 translation by Sir George Young, which is decent enough, though I can imagine it being done more fluently in today's idiom.
Tags: bookblog 2009

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