Because I refused to grow up and choose a responsible career, make money, or do anything productive with my life I have decided to major in pretend. Even before this I was forced in my high school career to read so-called “classic” plays. The example, apparently, of great theatre from before Bill Shakespeare took over is Oedipus Rex, or, as the version on my bookshelf reads:
As a dutiful student I of course read this epic play thoroughly (or at least skimmed half of the sparknotes). According to the volumes of books and essays I have read on the subject (Wikipedia), this play is considered the play par excellence of ancient theatre. As a learned man with a serious interest in his craft, let me offer a few words on that subject.
FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
Alright, lets take a step back. I suppose I shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Lets take a good hard look at the plot of this Greek clusterfuck.
Ok, so even before the “show” begins, there’s a backstory. A backstory. Because the Greeks had nothing else to do but read mythology (they didn’t have Texts From Last Night, apparently), every boy and girl would apparently know the story of Oedipus’ dad, King Laius. When Laius was young (before he was royalty) he was a guest of another king, named Pelops, and taught his son Chrysippus (what the fuck was wrong with their names, by the way, why don’t we have King Fred and Prince Dave instead of Penis and Crampon… or… whatever there names were) how to be a chariot racer–because that was cool for some reason.
So Laius, like any down and out chariot racing trainer, does what anyone would do when giving lessons to the son of a king… he abducts him and rapes him.
Apparently this all happened in a previously written play of Sophocles, which apparently was “lost”. More than likely they burned this play after watching it because the Greek Chorus no doubt ended up singing a few verses about the virtues of raping small boys and the audience got really uncomfortable.
I say the virtues of raping little boys because at the end of that play, apparently, Laius becomes KING. Yep, rape a boy, become king. But Catcher in the Rye gets banned from schools.
Alright, so now we’ve begun Oedipus Rex and the story starts out with Laius, who is now king, being told by a seer (basically crazy people who were high on gas all the time) that he was going to be killed by his own son. So like any responsible parent, he orders his wife to kill his son, Oedpius. Jocasta, Laius wife, is oddly hesitant to murder her own infant in cold blood, so like any woman with motherly instincts… she orders a servant to kill her son instead, because then she won’t feel bad about it. Now this servant also apparently feels like shaking a baby to death might give him bad dreams, so to ease his moral dilemma he LEAVES THE BABY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WILDERNESS. Because if you just leave a baby to deal with the elements, you didn’t kill it, the gods did… and that’s OK!
Because it would have made a short (and oddly enough, much less fucked up) story, the gods arrange the little kid to be picked up by a random shepherd. This shepard apparently gives the baby to a friend of his from another area (probably traded him for a goat). So the other shepard takes the baby home and gives him to the King of Corinth (probably for a bigger goat).
Oedipus is thus raised as a prince in a distant land but soon hears rumors that he’s (gasp) not the King’s real son, which is honestly the least of his problems, but like an emo bitch he decides to press the issue. He goes and visits the Oracle at Delphi (remember the ancient whippids?) and asks who his dad is. The Oracle, probably because she was high, completely misses Oedipus’ question and instead starts babbling about how he’s going to screw his mom and kill his dad.
Ok, now remember that part three seconds ago where Oedipus wasn’t sure if his current parents were his real parents? WELL OEDIPUS COMPLETELY FORGOT THAT EVER HAPPENED. So he runs away from home so he doesn’t kill his mom and diddle his dad… or… whatever. He embarks on an epic journey and on the road to distant lands he meets his dad. The two are headed down the same road and get into a road rage fight about which chariot has the right of way. Because the Greeks apparently can’t handle a two chariot traffic jam without losing their shit, one thing leads to another and fucking kills his father. Yep. Someone needs anger management classes.
So after unknowingly beating a random person to death (which you’d think might ring a bell in his brain), he just moseys along to Thebes, his hometown. When at Thebes he meets a Giant Sphinx that tells riddles.
So after Oedipus punked the Sphinx the grateful people of Thebes made him king (because mysteriously, their previous king disappeared…. WHY DO PLAY CHARACTERS NEVER UNDERSTAND FORESHADOWING? Oh, and as a secondary prize he also gets as his wife a woman who is old enough to be his mother… precisely because SHE IS.
And now we’re past the exposition… yep… After rape, murder, and incest we don’t even have a conflict.
Here’s the conflict. Now that Oedipus is King for a few years and has been diddling mom, a pestilence falls over the land (think Greek AIDS). That glue-sniffing oracle tells Oedipus that the cause of the pestilence is because the murderer of Laius has never been caught. As if to get a second opinion, Oedipus calls up this crazy blind guy who apparently can see into the future (I’m betting money he’s also on drugs). Unfortunately the drugs in those days worked really well and Tiresias (blindly blind) proceeds to tell Oedipus the REST OF THE PLOT.
Yep. Tiresias says that Oedipus killed his father. What does Oedipus say to this? “Bullshit.” Ok, nothing… no, recollection of past prophecies? No remembrance of the guy in the fancy clothes you killed in cold blood at the roadside? Nothing? Fine.
After Oedipus snubs the seer, the old man further states when the murderer is found (Oedipus) he will be a native citizen of Thebes; brother and father to his own children; and son and husband to his own mother (Oedipus putting his patriarchal pickle in his mom). Because apparently all the inbreeding left the royal family retarded, Oedipus makes nothing of this and puts all his resources towards finding the murderer.
But it’s ok, after the seer leaves Mom/Booty-Call comes to comfort Oedipus and to tell him to pay no mind to the Oracles. After all, her and her last husband heard a prophecy that he would die and she would end up humping her son… but that never came true, so OBVIOUSLY oracles are full of shit. Obviously…. obviously! What’s more is she says that there’s no way Oedipus could have killed the king, because EVERYONE KNOWS he was killed by bandits on the road to Delphi…. A few years ago…. When Oedipus was traveling from Delphi…. Hey Mr. Rex! Any spidey sense tingling?
Oh. Well now the moron is a little worried. He asks a few questions, but doesn’t worry about it because the king was killed by a gang of murderers, and he’s just a lone murderer… so no bad. He calls up the shepard who supposedly saw this murder to just clear things up. Meanwhile mommy dearest Jocasta, who apparently isn’t retarded, starts trying to convince him not to keep pushing the issue. But Oedipus of course doesn’t listen and…
FINDS OUT HE KILLED HIS DAD AND STUCK IT TO HIS MOM.
Now of course this is a horrible blow. Terrible thing to go through. Maybe we should all go to therapy and see this thing through… OR…
What the rational beings in this play do…
Jocasta hangs herself! And Oedipus after that stabs himself in the eyes and just sort of…. wanders off.
So yeah. That’s basically the Greek equivalent to football..
Moral of the Story: DON’T EVER TRY TO DENY YOUR FATE… JUST LET IT HAPPEN… BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T LET IT HAPPEN… IT’S JUST GOING TO HAPPEN ANYWAY, AND THEN YOU’LL STAB YOUR EYES OUT
So yeah… and that’s the plotline that’s required reading in many schools.
Hey, at least in their defense, it makes kids feel a little better about their choices in life.
Hooked to crack and get your girlfriend pregnant? Well hey, at least you didn’t kill your dad and do your mom…