Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Peter Stein On Oedipus, Atonement, And Democracy

"After many years of a pilgrimage of atonement to Colonus, Oedipus, the patricide who has conceived four children with his mother, the expelled, condemned vagabond led by his daughter Antigone comes to Athens, where the Oracle of Delphi has prophesied that he will find peace in death.

Oedipus, the last of the great heroes and the only legitimate ruler of Thebes, who has been driven to his crimes by fate and the gods unwittingly, is beloved of these cruel gods, and thus, they turn him into a protective power for Athens, which has given him friendly asylum. Henceforth, the world must exist without these men who resemble gods, ruled by usurpers (Oedipus’ brother-in-law Creon) and newcomers to power (his son Polynices), who try to win over the old dying man by force or by conviction, in order to legitimize their conflicting claims to power. Oedipus, who resists such attempts at using him with fierce anger, curses the rulers of his father’s city and pledges himself to the city of Athens, governed by law, and its ruler Theseus as he proceeds to develop democracy.

Sophocles’ tragedy, written in 406 B.C. at the age of 90 and only performed five years later posthumously, is his last work; it marks the end of the Attic tragedy."

Peter Stein, for the Salzburg Summer Festival, Salzburg, Austria, Present-day European Union.


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