Knowing Matters: Reading Sophocles’ “Oedipus Tyrannos” Online

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos 4-8

“The city is simultaneously full of burning incense
Songs of prayer and lamentations.
Children: rather than unjustly hear this from someone else
I have come here to learn it my self,
The man named Oedipus, known to everyone.”

πόλις δ᾿ ὁμοῦ μὲν θυμιαμάτων γέμει,
ὁμοῦ δὲ παιάνων τε καὶ στεναγμάτων·
ἁγὼ δικαιῶν μὴ παρ᾿ ἀγγέλων, τέκνα,
ἄλλων ἀκούειν αὐτὸς ὧδ᾿ ἐλήλυθα,
ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος.

Image may contain: text

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Last week, we postponed our reading of Hecuba for time to reflect on the meaning of tragedy and the creation of such shared art in the face of white supremacy and police killings. We return this week not because the work is done, but to continue using this space to reflect, connect, and commiserate. Sophocles’ Oedipus may not speak directly to race and racism against black people in the U.K. and United States, but it does force us to consider abuses of power, willed ignorance, and the kind of self-denial that allows each and everyone of us to look past the pain we share responsibility for in the world.

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, 59-61

“…I know this well
That you all are sick, and even though you’re sick
Not a one of you is as sick as I am.
For each of you must face up to a single share of pain
As it comes to you and not another.
But my soul groans for the city, for me, and you, at once.”

εὖ γὰρ οἶδ᾿ ὅτι
νοσεῖτε πάντες· καὶ νοσοῦντες, ὡς ἐγὼ
οὐκ ἔστιν ὑμῶν ὅστις ἐξ ἴσου νοσεῖ.
τὸ μὲν γὰρ ὑμῶν ἄλγος εἰς ἕν᾿ ἔρχεται
μόνον καθ᾿ αὑτόν, κοὐδέν᾿ ἄλλον, ἡ δ᾿ ἐμὴ
ψυχὴ πόλιν τε κἀμὲ καὶ σ᾿ ὁμοῦ στένει.


14-57 – Priest
216-275 – Oedipus
345-403 – Oedipus, Teiresias
709-833 – Iocasta, Oedipus
994-1085 – Oedipus, Messenger, Chorus, Iocasta
1110-1185 – Oedipus, Chorus, Messenger, Servant
1369-end – Oedipus, Chorus, Creon

296: “A word does not frighten one who didn’t tremble while doing the deed.”
ᾧ μή ᾿στι δρῶντι τάρβος, οὐδ᾿ ἔπος φοβεῖ.

Actors and Crew (using this text)

Priest, Iocasta, Chorus: Tamieka Chavis

Oedipus: Tony Jawawardena

Teiresias: Carlos Bellato

Jocasta: Tamieka Chavis

Messenger, Creon: Paul O’Mahony

Servant of Laios, Chorus: Arguris Xafis

Special Guest: Efimia D. Karakantza

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support: Lanah Koelle, Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone


“I’m telling you, since you’re mocking me for being blind,
You don’t see what trouble you’re in even though you have sight
Nor where you are living or who you are living with.”

λέγω δ᾿, ἐπειδὴ καὶ τυφλόν μ᾿ ὠνείδισας·
σὺ καὶ δέδορκας κοὐ βλέπεις ἵν᾿ εἶ κακοῦ,
οὐδ᾿ ἔνθα ναίεις, οὐδ᾿ ὅτων οἰκεῖς μέτα

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion, June 17th[10 AM EDT/3PM GMT]

Euripides, Hecuba, June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, July 1st


“Because I don’t believe this or deny it,
I am at a loss what to say.
But I am high on wings of hope,
Not seeing anything here or in the future.”

οὔτε δοκοῦντ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἀποφάσκονθ᾿,
ὅ τι λέξω δ᾿ ἀπορῶ.
πέτομαι δ᾿ ἐλπίσιν οὔτ᾿ ἐν-
θάδ᾿ ὁρῶν οὔτ᾿ ὀπίσω.

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th


“Blockheads, why are you stirring up this civil war
of tongue-wagging? Aren’t you ashamed to be kicking up
personal beefs when the land is diseased?”

τί τὴν ἄβουλον, ὦ ταλαίπωροι, στάσιν
γλώσσης ἐπήρασθ᾿; οὐδ᾿ ἐπαισχύνεσθε γῆς
οὕτω νοσούσης ἴδια κινοῦντες κακά;