Three Classic Plays: Oedipus the King, Hamlet, and TartuffeThis course will examine the multiple ways in which three well-known plays can be understood. Videos will show how different approaches affect performance. 1. An ethical tragedy: Oedipus the King. Oedipus takes responsibility for crimes which he makes every effort to avoid. The play has often been distorted by the search for a "tragic flaw" as the cause of Oedipus' downfall. "Tragic flaw" is a translation of a word Aristotle uses-hamartia-which Aristotle says causes the tragic character's misfortune. However, he quite specifically denies that the hero's downfall is caused by "evil and depravity" (kakian and mochtherian)-which sounds as if he does not mean that "hamartia" is some character trait or, indeed, a "tragic flaw." This course will argue that Oedipus is not "flawed," and neither are his actions determined by fate. 2. A psychological tragedy--The dialogue of the mind with itself: Hamlet. Mathew Arnold wrote: "[T]he dialogue of the mind with itself has commenced; modern problems have presented themselves; we hear already the doubts, we witness the discouragement, of Hamlet and of Faust." Hamlet's copious soliloquies stage the dialogue of the mind with itself. The play invites a reading based on the inner life of its hero. The Olivier film, for example, begins with a voice over saying, "This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind" and the film is heavily influenced by Ernest Jones' Freudian approach to the play. 3. A serious comedy: Tartuffe. In the preface to Tartuffe, Moliere writes that bad people do not mind being evil, but they do not like being laughed at. Comedy can have the serious purpose of correcting vice by ridiculing it. Thomas King holds an AB and MA in English Literature with a Greek minor from Indiana University. His PhD in theatre is also from IU. He taught English as a second language in Lamia, Greece and was in charge of the theatre program in the English Department at Sweet Briar College. He taught theatre at JMU for 30 years and was a Fulbright lecturer in American Studies (theatre) at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey. He has acted at the Tibbits Opera House in Michigan and was an actor in the Indiana Theatre Company. His most recent publication is titled "Between Piety and Sacrilege: Muslim Theatre and Performance." He has taught theatre, designed and built scenery, designed and executed stage lighting, directed and acted for 60 years. Most recently he played Grandpa in You Can't Take it With You at Court Square Theatre in 2019.
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