Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oedipus: A Summary

Every once in awhile I will entertain myself by retelling a story, usually something Shakespeare or the like, in essentially the same language/style I use to write this blog. Because I'm a giant nerd, in case you were unaware. Now I want to write a post but I also don't want to think to much (aka write a review, which believe it or not I do put thought into) and while I have wedding photos now, I haven't scanned them just yet so I can't write that post. Or I suppose I COULD but yeah, I'm not going to.* Instead, you get to enjoy my retelling of Oedipus because that's what I was telling myself while I walked from my office to the subway.**

Once upon a time, there was a King and Queen of Thebes. They had a baby and were like "Look what we made. We're terrific and I'm sure nothing terrible could come of this. Hey oracle, why don't you come over and tell us how awesome our baby is and great everything is going to be." And the oracle said "Yeah, yeah, great ki...No, wait. This one is definitely going to murder you. And then marry your wife. Well, that's a bummer. Good luck with that."
Odds are he was killed cos I assume kings and queens of ancient times were all about shooting the messenger. 300 was pretty much a documentary, right?

King Laius and Queen Jocasta are all "Well. Shit. We should do something to thwart this." You'd think, as the kid is growing up, Jocasta makes extra sure she doesn't marry him, which would seem fairly easy if she were to keep him around, but Laius was (understandably) more worried about the whole murder thing, so it was decided the kid's gotta go. But being not thoroughly terrible people, they couldn't bring themselves to do the kid in, so they give the kid to a servant to do their dirty work. The servant is also not thoroughly terrible and can't murder the kid. But he's sort of terrible as he binds/pins/nails the baby's feet together for...reasons, I guess? I mean, it's an infant. What was it going to do? Run off?
A real threat
Maybe not the brightest servant. Anyway, he leaves him on a mountain figuring that oughta do it, which isn't really that unreasonable of an assumption.

BUT some shepherds were wandering that mountainside (servant probably could have picked somewhere more secluded) and found the kid and brought him to King Polybus and Queen Merope who really wanted kids but couldn't have them. Then they named the kid Oedipus, aka "swollen foot" after the fact that his foot was all fucked up because of the whole binds/pins/nails thing which
Who names their kid after its physical deformity? It's probably for the best that they couldn't have kids or else Oedipus might have ended up with siblings "Dumbo ears" and "Weirdly tiny hands" which I'm sure would have sounded fancy in ancient Greek, but still not an excuse.

Oedipus grew up fairly normal so good on him until one day a random drunk guy calls him a "bastard" which super pisses him off, but not at the drunk guy. Not just at the drunk guy, anyway. He goes to check with his parents who are very "Whaaa? No. You are totally our kid by birth. We had the whole labor on video, but this asshole taped over it or else we would absolutely show you that. Now why don't you go out and play, ol' club foot?" Then he decides to go talk to an oracle and just happens to get the same one Laius and Jocasta talked to who tells Oedipus "You're totally going to kill your dad and marry your mom" which, again, I could see who the whole "kill your dad" thing might happen even if you don't want/mean for it to, but the "marrying your mom" thing seems easier to avoid. However, Oedipus doesn't trust himself and decides to leave Corinth and head over to Thebes cos that place seems pretty neat.

On the way there Oedipus comes to a fork in the road where it just so happens that King Laius is in the area as well. The two of them fight over who has the right-of-way because road rage is far more ancient than I would have otherwise assumed and Oedipus kills Laius. Given the whole prophecy that he CLEARLY believes, seeing that he left Corinth to prevent it from coming true, you'd think he'd be more careful when it comes to killing people that are roughly "dad" age, but Oedipus isn't that bright.

Oedipus makes his way to Thebes, which is guarded by the Sphinx who asks people a riddle and if they get it right they can enter Thebes and if they get it wrong they get killed. Could someone please explain what's so awesome about Thebes that it's worth probably getting eaten by a mythical creature just to get in? Oedipus is all for the challenge and answers the Sphinx's riddle correctly and he gets to enter Thebes! Yay, I guess!

Creon (Jocasta's brother) says whoever answers the Sphinx's riddle correctly and frees the city of her terror (I guess no one in the city tried to answer her riddle cos it seemed like she was only attacking new people coming into the city, but given Laius was wandering outside the city, I guess she doesn't really care if you leave. No riddle there.) gets to marry Jocasta who was recently widowed. Super recently, as a matter of fact. There isn't really anything about how long Oedipus's journey from Corinth to Thebes is, or how far he was into said journey when he murdered Laius, but it seems like not THAT much time has gone by. Aren't they still in mourning over their lost king? Do they even know he's dead or is he just missing?
Sounds like they all wanted Laius out of the way.

Anyway, so now Jocasta and Oedipus are married because women are door prizes, obv.
Also, again, they BOTH know the whole prophecy is that they will marry their mom/son so you'd THINK they'd keep their paramours out of those age ranges. Or maybe they'd be sitting around the fire drinking wine and get to talking about their past and "OMG you went to visit an oracle too? What'd he tell you? Because he told me I would kill my dad and marry my mom! Crazy, right? Anyway, what'd your oracle say?"

They don't do that cos OF COURSE NOT and instead get married and do the nasty at least 4 times cos Oedipus ends up with 4 kids/siblings. Ew.

Many years go by and suddenly a plague of infertility hits Thebes because sure, why not punish everyone cos of a few dumbasses. Also not sure why the plague took so long to hit but odds are the gods were busy/drunk earlier. I assume this wasn't Zeus doing the plaguing either, since he is into some weird kinky stuff and I assume this wouldn't bother him too much. Actually, that's a good question. Which of the gods was annoyed by this incest cos in general, that does not super seem like a thing they had an issue with. Oedipus tries to figure out how to stop the plague and Creon visits another oracle and really, stop that. This oracle says the plague will stop when Laius's killer is brought to justice but doesn't bring up the fact that apparently YEARS have gone by and no explanation why the plague suddenly started up. Lotta holes in their story, I'm saying.

Oedipus is going around sounding like a jackass yelling about how he's going to catch the killer and...awkward. Creon calls another oracle in cos these guys are just all over the place to tell them who killed Laius. This oracle doesn't want to tell anyone that it was the guy currently yelling in his face that he needs to know how the killer is, but at some point you can't help but tell the guy "you did it. And you've been screwing your mom. So maybe get out of my face." He also mentions something about how Oedipus should be ashamed cos he doesn't know who his real parents are, which should really fall behind the whole "killed your dad/screwing your mom" thing, at least in my mind. Ancient Greece had messed up priorities.

Eventually Jocasta figures out what's going on. Oedipus doesn't because he's sort of a dumbass. Jocasta goes to hang herself because ew ew eww. Oedipus FINALLY figures out what's going on (after like the 6th person spells it out to him), finds Jocasta hanging there, and stabs his eyes out. And then we get my favorite joke from History of the World


*This Sunday? Possibly! Likely, even!
** I am often lost in my own world while walking, and I'll randomly find I've been laughing/muttering to myself. I'd be more self-conscious about this, but I am never the weirdest person on the block (thank you, NYC) so it really doesn't matter.
*** I know there are some versions where Laius does this and then immediately leaves him on a hill. Others where they give him to a servant who does the binding. Whatever. Either way, what's the point of binding a baby if you're just going to leave him on a mountain. It's a BABY.