Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 791
“Don’t I know the affairs of Thebes better than you do?”
ἆρ᾿ οὐκ ἄμεινον ἢ σὺ τἀν Θήβαις φρονῶ;
The Center for Hellenic Studies, the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.”
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 5-6
“Although I ask for little and get even less
This is still enough for me…”
σμικρὸν μὲν ἐξαιτοῦντα, τοῦ σμικροῦ δ᾿ ἔτι
μεῖον φέροντα, καὶ τόδ᾿ ἐξαρκοῦν ἐμοί
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 62-63
“Stranger, these are the events, but they are not
Honored in the tales, but plenty by those who live near them”
τοιαῦτά σοι ταῦτ᾿ ἐστίν, ὦ ξέν᾿, οὐ λόγοις
τιμώμεν᾿, ἀλλὰ τῇ ξυνουσίᾳ πλέον.
After over 35 episodes, we return this week to Thebes with Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus. Although this play was written near the end of Sophocles’ life, it takes place between the events of his earlier Antigone and Oedipus Tyrannos. Often people casually assume that these three plays are part of the same trilogy, when in fact they were written in very different periods: Antigone appeared 10 years before the Peloponnesian War (441 BCE) as Pericles became the pre-eminent Athenian politician while Tyrannos was performed after the onset of the war and, likely, at the beginning of the famous plague. Colonus comes nearly a generation later. While scholars debate its exact performance and composition dates, it seems likely that it was one of the final plays Sophocles wrote before his death in 406/5 and that his son produced the play after the fall of Athens (perhaps as late as 401 BCE).
There is a belatedness to this play, an air of revision and reconsideration as we find Oedipus reflecting on his actions and the limits of his agency. It part, like many Athenian plays, this tragedy is about the reception of the mythical past. Its themes, moreover, also respond to contemporary (and modern) concerns from the crisis of immigration and exile to the very notion of what constitutes a community in times of struggle and civil strife. Within this, however, there remains the essential Oedipal question about identity and knowledge. How do we know who we are and understand our place in the world? What is our responsibility to our community? How do we define our community? And, perhaps most important for Oedipus, Athens, and our world today: how do we stay who we are when everything falls apart?
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 258-259
“What use is a good reputation? What good is
Fame flowing off to no end?”
τί δῆτα δόξης, ἢ τί κληδόνος καλῆς
μάτην ῥεούσης ὠφέλημα γίγνεται
Scenes (Robert Fitzgerald’s translation)
361-508 – Ismene, Oedipus, Chorus
728-847 – Creon, Oedipus, Antigone, Chorus
1251-1446 – Oedipus, Antigone, Polynices, Chorus
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 265-271
“….for you do not fear
My name or my actions, since you know
That I suffered the actions instead of doing them,
If you must speak of what my mother and father did—
These are the reasons you fear me. I know this well.
How could I be evil in nature
When I acted after being hurt so that even if
I understood what I was doing, I could not have been bad?
I got to where I did understanding nothing,
But I was ruined by those who understood what was happening.”
…γὰρ δὴ τό γε
σῶμ᾿ οὐδὲ τἄργα τἄμ᾿· ἐπεὶ τά γ᾿ ἔργα με
πεπονθότ᾿ ἴσθι μᾶλλον ἢ δεδρακότα,
εἴ σοι τὰ μητρὸς καὶ πατρὸς χρείη λέγειν,
ὧν οὕνεκ᾿ ἐκφοβῇ με· τοῦτ᾿ ἐγὼ καλῶς
270ἔξοιδα. καίτοι πῶς ἐγὼ κακὸς φύσιν,
ὅστις παθὼν μὲν ἀντέδρων, ὥστ᾿ εἰ φρονῶν
ἔπρασσον, οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὧδ᾿ ἐγιγνόμην κακός;
ῦν δ᾿ οὐδὲν εἰδὼς ἱκόμην ἵν᾿ ἱκόμην,
ὑφ᾿ ὧν δ᾿ ἔπασχον, εἰδότων ἀπωλλύμην.
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 431-436
“Would you say that the city agreed properly then
To give me the one gift I wanted?
No, not at all, when on the day itself when
My rage was burning, and it was my sweetest wish
To die by stoning—well,
No one was trying to help me with that desire.”
εἴποις ἂν ὡς θέλοντι τοῦτ᾿ ἐμοὶ τότε
πόλις τὸ δῶρον εἰκότως κατῄνεσεν;
οὐ δῆτ᾿, ἐπεί τοι τὴν μὲν αὐτίχ᾿ ἡμέραν,
ὁπηνίκ᾿ ἔζει θυμός, ἥδιστον δέ μοι
τὸ κατθανεῖν ἦν καὶ τὸ λευσθῆναι πέτροις,
οὐδεὶς ἔρωτ᾿ ἐς τόνδ᾿ ἐφαίνετ᾿ ὠφελῶν·
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 562-568
“I know that I was raised as an exile,
Like you, and as man in exile I toiled
In the face of the greatest risks to my life–
That’s why I would never turn away an exile
like you are now, since I know I am only a man
And I have no greater share of tomorrow than you.”
ὃς οἶδά γ᾿ αὐτὸς ὡς ἐπαιδεύθην ξένος,
ὥσπερ σύ, χὠς εἷς πλεῖστ᾿ ἀνὴρ ἐπὶ ξένης
ἤθλησα κινδυνεύματ᾿ ἐν τὠμῷ κάρᾳ,
ὥστε ξένον γ᾿ ἂν οὐδέν᾿ ὄνθ᾿, ὥσπερ σὺ νῦν,
ὑπεκτραποίμην μὴ οὐ συνεκσῴζειν· ἐπεὶ
ἔξοιδ᾿ ἀνὴρ ὢν χὤτι τῆς εἰς αὔριον
οὐδὲν πλέον μοι σοῦ μέτεστιν ἡμέρας.
Cast And Crew
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 1211-1223
“Whoever longs for a greater portion
Of living beyond what is enough
Will seem clearly to me
To be guarding foolishness.
Since the long days set out
Many things closer to pain
And you can’t see where pleasure is,
Whenever someone stumbles into more
Than is needed. But as an ally equal to all,
Hades is a revelation
Without a song, a dance, or a wedding,
That fate of death at the end.
ὅστις τοῦ πλέονος μέρους
χρῄζει τοῦ μετρίου παρεὶς
ζώειν, σκαιοσύναν φυλάσσων
ἐν ἐμοὶ κατάδηλος ἔσται.
ἐπεὶ πολλὰ μὲν αἱ μακραὶ
ἁμέραι κατέθεντο δὴ
λύπας ἐγγυτέρω, τὰ τέρ-
οντα δ᾿ οὐκ ἂν ἴδοις ὅπου,
ὅταν τις ἐς πλέον πέσῃ
τοῦ δέοντος· ὁ δ᾿ ἐπίκουρος ἰσοτέλεστος,
Ἄϊδος ὅτε μοῖρ᾿ ἀνυμέναιος
ἄλυρος ἄχορος ἀναπέφηνε,
θάνατος ἐς τελευτάν.
Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)
Tuesday, December 8 – Wednesday, December 9 Odyssey ‘round the world – a special 24-hour event featuring performances of every rhapsody of the Odyssey recorded by students, faculty, and actors around the world. View the schedule.
December 9 Performing Epic: The Odyssey
with Suzanne Lye (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Leonard Muellner (Brandeis University), Sheila Murnaghan (University of Pennsylvania), and Greg Nagy (Harvard University); translation by Stanley Lombardo, courtesy of Hackett Publishing Company
December 16 Cyclops, Euripides
with Carl Shaw (New College of Florida)
December 23 Series Finale: Frogs, Aristophanes
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 607-615
“Most dear son of Aegeus, only the gods don’t age
Or ever die, but that wrestler time
Eventually wears everything else out.
The earth’s strength wanes, the body’s strength fades,
Trust dies and distrust waxes stronger,
Breath never lands the same among friends
Nor between cities who were once allied.
Some things that are pleasing now turn bitter
In later time, but then friendship comes again in turn.”
ὦ φίλτατ᾿ Αἰγέως παῖ, μόνοις οὐ γίγνεται
θεοῖσι γῆρας οὐδὲ κατθανεῖν ποτε,
τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα συγχεῖ πάνθ᾿ ὁ παγκρατὴς χρόνος.
φθίνει μὲν ἰσχὺς γῆς, φθίνει δὲ σώματος,
θνῄσκει δὲ πίστις, βλαστάνει δ᾿ ἀπιστία,
καὶ πνεῦμα ταὐτὸν οὔποτ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἐν ἀνδράσιν
φίλοις βέβηκεν οὔτε πρὸς πόλιν πόλει.
τοῖς μὲν γὰρ ἤδη, τοῖς δ᾿ ἐν ὑστέρῳ χρόνῳ
τὰ τερπνὰ πικρὰ γίγνεται καὖθις φίλα.