The Unwritten “Oedipus Rex”

23 09 2010

Sophocles, the playwright who penned Oedipus Rex, certainly set the standards for Greek tragedy when it came to gripping scenes and dramatic confrontations. However, there were certain elements which the great Greek tragedian chose to exclude from his play. In keeping with the Aristotelian theory of the three unities (one plot, one place and one time), Sophocles ensured that the play deserved its title – and it focused solely on Oedipus.

Yet, the details he did include gave rise to a few questions: what happened to Creon in the interval of his absence from the stage? Could there be more to Jocasta’s final hour than what the messenger described? Where were the sons of Oedipus Rex at this time and what were their thoughts?

The epistolary format is then adapted as an online class activity and it is designed for the students to evaluate just how much they understood of the play and its characters’ moods, motives and emotions. Moreover, they apply their creative writing skills as they put themselves into the togas of their characters.

These letters will feature the thoughts of selected characters which are not shown in the play. The letters should be presented in the following order:

1) 1-2 letters of appeal, addressed to Oedipus, from Theban citizens. (Select a profession for the citizen and base his/her word choice and perspective from there. How would s/he describe the plague and what would s/he tell Oedipus?)

2) 1-2 letters written by Creon during the interval when he does not appear onstage (between the third and the fifth episodes of the play). (To whom would he write to and what would he say?)

3) 1-2 journal entries written by either one of Oedipus’s two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, spanning the events of the play. (How would the princes of Thebes feel at the turn of events?)

4) Jocasta’s final letter, written moments before she hangs herself. (To whom would she write to and what would be her last thoughts?)

5) Oedipus’s (dictated) farewell letter to his sons. (What would he tell his sons, given the circumstances?)

Unless indicated, the students may decide to whom to address the letters to.
The novel in letters shall be written and created by each literature circles group. Each group member should contribute one letter (there may be only one letter from the Theban citizen or from journal entry from one of Oedipus’s sons, depending on the number of students in the group).

Each letter/ journal entry should have a minimum of 350 words and a maximum of 700 words and should be published with at least one picture.
The students are evaluated on the following: conveyance of the appropriate tone, which is character- and context-dependent (as seen in their word choice) and coherent and clear organization among the letters written.

The deadline for both classes will be on Monday, October 4. The novel in letters shall be uploaded in their literature circles blog site.

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