Oedipus the King by Sophocles
The intent of the author in the play is to reveal how human beings are victims of divine powers. King Oedipus is a victim of workings of fate and has no control over it. A deadly plague strikes the ancient city of Thebes, one which is also not the doing of the city dwellers, but works of gods. When Creon comes with a report from the oracle at Delphi on the relation between the plague and murder of the previous king, a search for murderer begins. Little known to King Oedipus, he is the murderer. And it was all planned, such that he could not evade it. The oracle warned King Laius that he would be killed by his own son. The fate was sealed. King Laius’ attempt to kill his son was futile. Instead, after being resqued a young Oedipus would indeed kill his father.
The intent of the director was to fully embrace the Ancient Greek origin and culture to come out with a play of astonishing dramatic power. The performance was typical of the ancient Greek theatre tradition in terms of both costume and style. The cast wore masks, making them scarcely recognizable as human beings, but rather scary. Perhaps this was meant to imply that the play was a rather ritual affair. Voice acting was skilfully done to maintain the tense mood in the whole performance. Consequently, the actors employed body posture in coordination with tone variation as a way of communication. The entire play was performed within a small space.
Guthrie’s choice of costume and style can be interpreted as a mockery towards the author’s belief that divine powers determine our destinies. He portrays from the outset, how the Theban king crafted his own downfall. Actually, it is evident from his portrayal of the play that what is presumed to be the workings of fate, is actually the king’s own workings. The protagonists appear to be sinister in the start of the play but at the end, forge a forgiving and regrettable tone. Thus the saying, Tell a man his future and naturally, by doing everything to avoid the outcome, he will end up making the prophesy a reality.
My response to the play and its relevance in the 21st century.
The performance was interesting but scary at first. Certainly, actors need not to have their faces visible so as to come up with a great performance. The director skilfully blended style with costume to make the play more captivating.
The play remains to be a relevant work of literature as it tries to address the question whether human beings have free will or are bound to already written destinies. Having been written almost two and a half millennia ago, it is striking that the play is still relevant in the 21st century where people still debate on whether they have control over their own destinies. While some believe that the occurrences of tomorrow are a result of the choices made today, others are of the view that our lives and destinies are predetermined and were known even before we were born.