Oedipus Rex, By Sophocles And Darker Face Of The Earth, By Rita Dove

1667 words - 7 pages

Throughout literature authors have written to express a message to their intended audience. This is no exception for the plays, Oedipus Rex and Darker Face of the Earth, written by Sophocles and Rita Dove, respectively. The similarities in plot, characters, and motifs are not the sole concurrencies between both plays; the overall message to the audiences in both plays is one in the same, one cannot escape their fate. Sophocles and Dove both illuminate this message through their use of the chorus. While Sophocles uses a single chorus of Theban elders, Dove illustrates the grimness of fate through several minor characters: the chorus, the prayers and the players, the rebels, and three female slaves. Dove’s usage of Phebe, Diana, and Psyche further accentuate the battle between free will and fate, as well as the role of women, a concept absent in Sophocles’ play.
Phebe’s character serves a moderator between Augustus and the slaves, similar to the chorus, her role further develops the superiority of fate over free will. Whilst the Chorus opens Oedipus Rex in “Parados,” Phebe has the first lines in Darker Face of the Earth. Moreover, both Choragos and Phebe have some of the last lines in their respective plays. This parallel assists in creating a sense of continuity with their characters. Phebe was the name of the sun goddess for the Roman people, the sun is a static force, and it will always rise in the morning. The sun also represents light and knowledge, which are two characteristics that allow Phebe to be a leader. While, Choragos is a character like the Chorus that will always appear in Grecian plays. Both the role of Phebe and the role of the Chorus help set the ambience of each of their respective plays. The Chorus opens Oedipus Rex with, “What is God singing in his profound Delphi of gold and shadow? What oracle for Thebes, sun whipped city”? (Sophocles 10), while Phebe opens Darker Face of the Earth with, “What some people won’t do for attention! Sure, he’s alright-looking – but that ain’t qualification enough for the big white bed in the big white house,” (Dove 9). Both these opening lines give the audience the context and setting of each play, respectively. Both the Chorus and Phebe connect with the protagonist in each of their plays. The Chorus begins by being supportive of Oedipus, believing, based on his past successes, that he's the right man to fix their woes. As Oedipus's behavior becomes more erratic, they become uncertain and question his motives. However, in the end, the Chorus is on Oedipus's side again and laments his horrific fate. Phebe, however, internally clashes between following Scylla or Augustus. Scylla’s use of African voodoo and belief in spirits symbolize her role as a connection to fate and a higher power. While, Augustus’ rebellious attitude and ideals symbolize man’s free will. In a way, this conflict Phebe goes through allows her to serve as a link between new and old world beliefs, much like how the Chorus...

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