Sophocles play Oedipus the King (also commonly known as Oedipus Rex and Oedipus Tyrannus) is a very famous tragedy about Oedipus, a mythical King. Sophocles, first produced the play in Athens around 430 B.C., we can tell this because of the reference to the Theban plague at the plays opening, at the Great Dionysia, a religious and cultural festival held in honor of the god Dionysus, held in early spring, where it won second prize.
It would have been performed according to the Greek rules of performance known as the Aristotelian unities of time, place and action. The stonecutter, devised by a co-operative of year eleven students in 2008 in contrast to Oedipus the King does not obey the Aristotelian unities as it jumps between past and present, has a variety of settings and will not be performed in the time it is set. The stonecutter comprising of a variety of playwrights including improvised scenes and sections is a play within a play with the warning to be careful for what you wish for. In this essay I shall discuss further similarities and differences of the theatrical treatments of the two mythical stories.
Sophocles play deals with a number of themes; Fate and destiny being pre-decided being a main one; Fate is a theme often occurring in Greek plays but tragedies in particular. From the beginning of Oedipus the King, we know that Oedipus is destined to “kill his father and mate with his mother”. Another main theme of Oedipus the king is that bravery and skill (in fighting) is rewarded but mistakes/bad choices/crime will be punished even if done unintentionally. The stonecutter compares as it also has an underling theme which crops up at various times throughout the play, however they differ in the sense that the themes are different.
The culture behind the two plays differ significantly. The audience of Oedipus the King would have consisted of men only as woman were not aloud to attend the theatre as they were not thought to be capable of ‘rational thinking.’ Also male actors only performed in plays and woman characters were played often by the younger male actors. It was at that time considered civil duty that men attended the theatre for moral education commonly about incest and male and female relationships and loans were even granted to people who could not afford to go. In contrast to this in modern time both men, woman and children attend theatre and most commonly for leisure and entertainment and with out the thought that they are going for moral education.
The stonecutter is more about telling a story, however there is a moral of the story which is referred to many times throughout the play. In the stonecutter we intended to target a modern audience in a number of ways; Firstly, by incorporating humor into our performance because as discussed previously the modern audience attend theatre for leisure and entertainment and secondly, by using modern technology, for example lighting and sound to our advantage.
The stages in which the plays would have and will be performed on differ significantly. The theatre in which Oedipus the king would have been performed on would have been a huge fan-shaped open air auditorium, in what is now called an ‘amphitheatre’ layout. Ampitheatre’s were open air, so lighting was not a problem and massive enabling thousands of people to see a play at the same time and with out the trouble of hearing the actors.
This is due to the way they were built, which cleverly meant that no matter how high up you were seated, you could always hear what the actors were saying as the stone in which they were built with suppressed low frequencies of voices, thus minimizing background audience noise and reflected the high-frequencies of the actors and chorus’ voices back towards the audience. Whereas, the stonecutter will be performed in a small drama studio with a significantly smaller audience of around thirty people sitting directly in front of an unmarked performing area and the use of lighting will be required.
Oedipus the King, acted in accordance to Greek theatre would have included two types of acting roles; three actors (named parts) who were trained and professional and were the only people with speaking parts, and then the chorus which would have had fifteen members who were untrained local men, often from surrounding towns. The stonecutter, unlike Greek theatre has five actors playing named parts and members that form the chorus. The chorus consisting of only five people is a lot smaller than the chorus that would have appeared in Oedipus the King. A lot of Oedipus the kings choral ”speeches’ were sung and danced with the accompaniment of musical instruments like the double flute, drums and the tambourine. They generally sung in unison and the lines of the speeches were shared around all the members of the chorus.
The stonecutter compares in the sense that the lines of its speeches are shared around all members of the chorus however contrasts as none of its choral ‘speeches’ are sung or danced. The chorus entrance in Oedipus the King would mark the beginning of the play and their exit would mark the end of the play, the stonecutter does not start of with the chorus entering it starts of with the actors entering one by one subtly portraying their characters which is different to the beginning of Oedipus the king however the stonecutter’s end like Oedipus the king’s ending is marked by the exit of the chorus after a final choral speech.
In conclusion, after reviewing all comparisons and differences between the theatrical treatments of the two plays with there evidently being more differences between them than comparisons I have come to the conclusion the theatrical treatments of the two mythical stories are very different due to many factors; The acting and actors, staging and the cultures behind them.