The Riddle of the Text: Sophocles’ 'Oedipus the King'

Terry Collits


This essay seeks to continue the work of Bertolt Brecht in developing more flexible readings of Oedipus the King.
'The individual whose innermost being is thus driven into the open [writes Brecht] then of course comes to stand for Man with a capital M. Everyone (including every spectator) is then carried away by the momentum of the events portrayed, so that in a performance of Oedipus one has for all practical purposes an auditorium of little Oedipuses.'
Brecht’s comment points to that moment in the drama when Oedipus is finally brought to accept that the words of the various oracles were right all along and that the terrible fate laid down for him before his birth could never have been evaded. This article will start there, and explore the possibility that the audience in the theatre need not make the same assumptions as Oedipus, which would be impossible for an audience of ‘little Oedipuses’.

Full Text: