Summary of Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos
Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos Study Questions
Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos Terms to Know
Not a term the great Greek tragedian Sophocles would have used, dramatis personae refers to the roles of the actors of the play. In Greek, the actors were called hypokrites, meaning one who answers, in this case, the chorus. The Latin word personae, so obviously related to the English 'person,' refers to the mask of an actor, perhaps because it's through that mask that the sound comes, although that etymology has been questioned. The masks in Greek drama allowed the actors to play multiple roles. They may have served as resonance chambers so actors could be heard even when their backs were turned. Rabinowitz says they faced the audience in order to be heard and mentions that Sophocles stopped acting because his voice was too weak to be heard by the back of the audience.
Sophocles introduced a third actor to tragedy. There was also the chorus, generally thought of as a singing and dancing group that interacted with the actors. You will notice that there is no scene in Oedipus where there are 4 actors with spoken parts: the boy who leads the blind Tiresias and says nothing doesn't count as one of the actors. Although Jocasta was a woman, a male played her part. The costumes and mask would have disguised the incorrect gender assignment. Rabinowitz, citing Aristophanes, says males who played women tried to imitate women's voices.
- "Choral Identity in Greek Tragedy," by Helene Foley; Classical Philology, (2003).
- "Hybris in the Second Stasimon of the Oedipus Rex," by Ruth Scodel; Classical Philology (1982)
- The Classics Page - Oedipus Tyrannos by Sophocles
Priest of ZeusThe Priest of Zeus comes on early in the play to demand that something be done to avert the pestilence that has afflicted Thebes.
CreonThe son of Menoeceus and descendant of Cadmus. Creon is thought to be something of a generic princely name (see: A Dictionary of Phrase and Fable; Oxford University Press).
JocastaJocasta, daughter of Menoeceus, was the wife of Laius and the mother of only one child, Oedipus. After Laius dies, Oedipus marries Jocasta. She then has 4 children, 2 of each gender. When she learns she has married her son and the murderer of her husband, she commits suicide in Sophocles' version of the Oedipus myth.
Messengers in Greek tragedy reported on actions that occurred offstage, especially violence.
The Corinthian Messenger brings news that Polybus, the Corinthian king is dead. The messenger was the one who had presented the infant Oedipus to Polybus. Polybus and his wife were childless and adopted the boy. The Corinthian messenger received the infant from a Theban shepherd.