Bowing to the Greeks: “the Dead are killing the Living”

During our discussion in class we have briefly touched upon some of the apparent parallels that can be found between Ibsen’s Ghosts and Oedipus Rex. Pursuing this line of thought, I delved into the bowels of the internet and found some fascinating articles about Ibsen here.

 In Sophokles’ Oedipus Tyrannos, Oedipus defies the warning of his priest, Tiresias, and embarks on a quest for truth that ends in the devastating knowledge that he is the criminal he seeks, the unintentionally guilty destroyer of his own family.

In Ghosts Helene Alving defies her priest, Pastor Manders and embarks on a journey towards the truth that ends in the devastating knowledge that she is the unintentionally guilty destroyer of her family.

Another interesting issue brought by these essays is the temporal sequence of the play: how can it be that the play begins in the morning, is only interrupted by lunch, and yet somehow ends morning next day? This is

…a passage of at least sixteen hours. Yet the action of the play…is just two hours.  Even in the most laid-back Norwegian households, lunches don’t go on for fourteen hours.

How can this inform our reading of the play? What is Ibsen trying to convey with this impossibility? How is this similar to Oedipus’s journey of discovery that unfolds in a matter of a few hours? What are some of the deterministic elements present in Oedipus Rex and how do these translate to 19th century Norway?

On a different note, perhaps one of the most intriguing metamorphoses that a text can undergo is its adaptation through the movements of the human body, i.e. dance. Here is a trailer for Cathy Marston’s dance adaptation, filmed at the Royal Opera House, London.

Finally, here you can find a beautifully haunting interpretation of ghosts by a contemporary Italian sculptor, Livio Scapella.

Ps.: The quote of the title is from Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearers.


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