Poetic Mix of
Monologue and Dialogue
You gotta remember that, unless you’re really, really into
classic Greek, you’re probably reading one of many, many translations of Oedipus at Colonus, so it’s hard to
comment on Sophocles’ style without having a shot at the original. We can look
at the way the characters talk to each other, though. (And for more on the
original, check this out)
Oedipus at Colonus is
written in a pretty poetic style, even in up-to-date versions like Peter J.
Ahrensdorf and Thomas L. Pangle’s 2014 translation. Just look at how the play
opens, with Oedipus talking to his daughter:
Child of a blind man,
Antigone, to what
Lands have we come, or
to the city of which men? (1-2)
This poetic way of characterizing his daughter, relating her
to him and to his blinded condition, isn’t just a pretty way of saying things.
It’s also meant to quickly get audiences up to speeds: It’s Antigone and Oedipus,
after he’s blinded himself.
There’s also an interesting mix of monologue and dialogue in
the play that keeps it interesting. You get Oedipus going on and on in a prayer
to the Furies:
Oh Mistresses with
Terrible Countenance, since in
This land, first at
Your suppliant seats, I have found rest,
Be not unmindful of
Phoebus and of me! (84-86)
He takes his time and really lets out what he’s feeling,
what he’s been through, and what he wants, in this monologue. That gives
audiences a nice, thorough look into the character’s mind and motivation.
However, we also can see how characters relate to one
another with some of the back-and-forth dialogue:
OEDIPUS. No! No! Do
not ask me who
I am! Do not examine
me further in your inquiry!
CHORUS. What is this?
OEDIPUS. A terrible
CHORUS. Speak! (210-14)
There’s still a lot of poetry in this dialogue, almost a
call-and-response feel, but it’s quick and snappy, which amps up the intensity
of the emotions in the exchange, letting the audience really taste Oedipus’
despair and the Chorus’ curiosity.