Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Severn Darden - Oedipus (Oedipus Rex) - transcript

Professor: Good evening, students.

I see there are a great many of you here this evening, which most probably means that you are missing Dr. Bettelheim's lecture, which is entitled "Some Positive Aspects of Anti-Semitism". And it's a good thing that you're missing it, too.

Now, this evening, if you will remember, we are to discuss eleftheros [ἐλεύθερος eleutheros] and ananke [ἀνάγκη anangke]: free will and necessity.

Now necessity is when you want to do something very, very, much, and the way is open so you can do it and nothing stands in your way, you couldn't do it. Whereas free will is where you want to do something, and everything in the entire universe makes it impossible for you to do it, you do it anyhow.

Now this evening we are going to examine free will and necessity in the light of the play that you were to have read, which is entitled "Oedipus Rex", which means "Oedipus the King". Now for those of you who may not have read it, the plot is a very simple one (in a confused way).

Oedipus is an orphan who doesn't know who his parents are. And one day for some or other reason, God knows why, he sets out on a journey. And in the road, on the journey, he meets a king. And the king says, "Move over, Oedipus, so I can get by!" (it was obviously a very narrow road or something). And Oedipus says "No!" (for some reason of his own). And the king says, "Move!" And Oedipus kills him in a fit of pique. And the king, being killed, dies.

And Oedipus goes on down the road, and he meets up there with a Sphinx. Now a Sphinx is an animal which is part lion, part woman, and very, very neurotic, heh! And who wouldn't be in such a situation! And so she proceeds to ask him the riddle of the Sphinx, which is, "What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?" And Oedipus answers, quite simply, Man. Because as a child you walk on all fours, and as a man you walk on two legs, and as an old man, you walk with a cane. So the Sphinx, hearing this, leaps over the cliff and destroys herself (for some neurotic reason of her own).

And then he goes into the town of Thebes where the townspeople meet him. And they say, "Oedipus, you have killed the Sphinx, therefore you must marry the queen." Cause and effect. [unintelligible] Anyhow, he marries the queen and he has four lovely little children.

And suddenly a pestilence falls on the land and people are getting sick and then there is a drought and the crops are failing. And out from the crowd steps a blind seer—another anomaly—whose name is Tiresias. And he says, Oedipus, that man that you killed, that king, that was your father, that woman that you married, that was your mother, and these four lovely children, God knows what relation they are to you.

And at this point from offstage is heard a scream. And he learns that Jocasta, the queen, has hanged herself in her own garments. And Oedipus, knowing this, rushes and he takes the pins from the garments and plucks out his own eyes and lives happily ever after in the garden.

Now, keeping in mind free will and necessity, we are going to see what would have happened to Oedipus if he had read the book before going on the journey. Free will and necessity, ja? Watch.

King: Make way for the king!

Professor: Certainly, your majesty! Go right past. Aha!

King: Not so fast.

Professor: What?

King: Why are you trying to curry favor with me, hah?

Professor: I wouldn't curry you.

King: Oh yeah? Why are you trying to butter me up?

Professor: I wouldn't butter you. What am I, a cook? What is this?

King: Why did you get out of the way so fast, then?

Professor: Well, I'll move back. I was [unintelligible]

King: Ah, just a minute now. I'm surrounded by two types of people, plotters and people who are trying to get in tight with me and get some—

Professor: [unintelligible] I happen to be a teacher.

King: I have a bad heart and I'm a very old man and if you excite me, I'm liable to go at any mo—oh—

Professor: Take an aspirin!

King: oh dear—oh, my heart—

Professor: Oh no! Please! He died of a heart attack! It wasn't my fault! I didn't do it! You see that!

Sphinx: Oedipus, you've come!

Professor: Good grief, a Sphinx!

Sphinx: All hail, great Oedipus!

Professor: Hello, schatzie, what can I do for you? What's happening?

Sphinx: Answer my riddle and you will marry the queen and become king of all Thebes!

Professor: Ah, I don't want to answer the riddle!

Sphinx: Oh, Oedipus, please? What walks on four legs in the morning—

Professor: four legs in the morning—

Sphinx: two in the afternoon—

Professor: two in the afternoon—

Sphinx: And three in the evening?

Professor: Three in the evening. Some sort of hideous monster, ha ha ha ha!

Sphinx: Oh, Oedipus—

Professor: What?

Sphinx: think of the power—of the glory—

Professor: I don't need power and glory, I'm a full professor. What do I need power and glory for? Ridiculous. What is it?

Sphinx: Yes, you are, yes, and you're a smart—man. MAN.

Professor: Oh, I'm a full professor but I'm not a real smart man.

Sphinx: MAN! You've guessed the magic word! [exits shrieking]

Professor: No, I said it by accident! I didn't mean to say that! Good grief, what a mess that Sphinx made of herself down there!

Chorus leader: Hail Oedipus!

Chorus: Hail Oedipus!

Professor: Hello there. What can I do for you?

Chorus leader: You've killed the Sphinx!

Chorus: the Sphinx!

Professor: the Sphinx.

Chorus leader: You must marry the queen!

Chorus: The queen!

Professor: The queen, ja, cause and effect, I know. I wouldn't do it, ha ha ha!

Chorus leader: You must marry the queen!

Chorus: the queen!

Professor: I won't marry the queen.

Chorus leader: If you don't marry the queen, we'll kill you!

Chorus: kill you!

Professor: [subdued] I'll marry the queen.

Chorus leader: Jocasta! The queen!

Jocasta: You have a lovely smile, Oedipus.

Professor: You know, by all rights, this should be my mother, but my mother's at home in Barbaria. Besides, she's a dwarf.

Crowd: [moaning] Oh! Oh! Oedipus!

Professor: Ja? What is it?

Chorus leader: the drought is on the land!

Chorus: the land!

Professor: It didn't rain. Cause and effect.

Chorus leader: The people are dying of the plague!

Chorus: the plague!

Professor: You didn't inoculate them.

Chorus leader: The crops have failed!

Chorus: have failed!

Professor: You didn't rotate them.

Tiresias: Oedipus!

Professor: Heavens, a seer!

Chorus leader: Tiresias!

Tiresias: Oedipus, I have a message for you. Come here.

Professor: What is it you want to say?

Tiresias: [whispers to Oedipus]

Professor: I'm a what?? What did you call me?? I'll hit you, that's what I'll do!

[Jocasta screams offstage]

Professor: What was that scream?

Chorus leader: The queen has hanged herself! Here are her pins. Put out your eyes.

Chorus: Your eyes.

Professor: My eyes. [increasingly dramatic music] Wait a minute. [music stops] I told you I was going down the road, the old man died of a heart attack, you knew he had heart trouble, only likely. That Sphinx was a twisty character, she tricked me into saying it. And then you forced me to marry the queen.

Chorus leader: That's true.

Professor: It's not my fault!

[crowd mutters]

Crowd: [shouting] It's not his fault!

Professor: [shouting] It's not my fault!

Crowd: It's not his fault!

Professor: It's not my fault!

Professor: So you see, my dear students, the lesson that we learn from this is that Man has free will, but tragic poets do not, and Art is not Nature.

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