Oedipus Rex eText - Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights

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Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights

As you read Oedipus Rex, be aware of the following:

  1. the role of dramatic irony in the play (the audience knows information, specifically about Oedipus’ past, that the characters on stage do not).

  2. the emergence of the following themes, concepts, and questions:

  3. the conventions of Greek drama:

    • the use of masks with wigs attached

    • the chorus, which would sing in verse and dance

    • multiple roles played by the same actor

  • Since Greek tragedy grew out of the performances of lyric poetry sung by large choruses, it is only natural that the chorus should remain a large part of Greek tragedy. Every play’s chorus (usually fourteen men) took on an identity appropriate to the play. For example, in the Oedipus Rex, they are old men of Thebes; in Aeschylus’ Eumenides, they are the dread goddesses, the Furies.
    The word chorus in Greek means “dance,” and the chorus’ main function was to sing and dance lyric odes in between dramatic episodes. These odes comment on the action of the preceding episode. The chorus could also, however, act as a character; one chorus member would be designated leader and speak lines of dialogue, interacting with the other characters on stage. They react as their characters should—in the Oedipus Rex, the chorus, while concerned about Oedipus’ personal problems, care first and foremost about the fate of the city and finding a cure for the plague.