English 206: Studies in Drama                                        Fall 2003

Caldwell G106  MWF 1:30-2:20
Section 001
Dr. Morillo

First Paper Assignment

Length: 5 pages double-spaced computer printed or typed; standard margins: top and bottom = 1 inch
right and left = 1.25 inches
Points: 15% of your final grade
Due date: Friday, Sept. 19, at the start of class

Your paper needs to be an argument.  It needs to propose a thesis and then support the claims of that thesis with appropriate evidence from the texts.  Since the words in any play are usually the most concrete and compelling evidence to use, be sure to look up any words you don't know in the Oxford English Dictionary online.  See syllabus for how to access that superior dictionary.

To cite lines from either play use this form: After any quoted passage put the page and the line number in parentheses.  "But as this charioteer lurched over towards me / I struck him in my rage.  The old man saw me" (61, l. 328).  Note that words on separate lines are separated by a space, a front slash, and another space; a small l is the conventional abbreviation for line. Do not block quotations if they are under 30 lines long. If you need to indicate who is speaking do so with name: what is said. To cite from Aristotle just give the page from your text in parenthesis. No line number is needed.

If you use only the texts from the syllabus you don't need a works cited page. If you use any other sources you do need to put them in a works cited page.


1. Aristotle is very particular about what he thinks defines a tragedy, and what makes for a good tragedy. Based on your knowledge of Euripides' The Bacchae and your reading of the excerpt from Aristotle's Poetics (pp. 1656-1662), answer this question: would Aristotle think that The Bacchae is a good tragedy? Explain and defend your answer in an argument supported with appropriate evidence from the Euripides' play and Aristotle's text. If you wish to read more of the Poetics you may of course do so, but it is not necessary to to so for this paper.

Sigmund Freud is perhaps the most famous reader of Oedipus Rex to have responded to the play in writing.  In one of his lectures Freud made the following clams about this play:

It is a surprising thing that the tragedy of Sophocles does not call up indignant repudiation in his audience . . . For fundamentally it is an amoral work: it absolves men from moral responsibility, exhibits the gods as promoters of crime and shows the impotence of the moral impulses of men which struggle against crime. It might easily be supposed that the material of the legend had in view an indictment of the gods and fate . . . But with the devout Sophocles there is no question of an application of that kind.  The difficulty is overcome by the pious sophistry that to bow to the will of the gods is the highest morality even when it promotes crime.  I cannot think that this morality is a strong point of the play, but it has no influence on its effect ("The Development of the Libido," Lecture XXI in Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. and ed. James Strachey, 331).

Freud also singles out one particular character from the play for criticism.  About Jocasta (Iocaste) Freud remarks:

The work of the Athenian dramatist exhibits the way in which the long-past deed of Oedipus is gradually brought to light by an investigation ingeniously protracted and fanned into life by ever fresh relays of evidence. To this extent it has a certain resemblance to the progress of psychoanalysis.  In the course of the dialogue Jocasta, the deluded mother and wife, declares herself opposed to the continuance of the enquiry. She appeals to the fact that many people have dreamt of lying with their mothers, but that dreams should be despised. (Freud 330-1)
Evaluate Freud's interpretation of the play.  Do you think he is right about the shape of the whole play as being without morals? If so why? If not why not? Do you think his reading of Jocasta's character is accurate? Is she deluded? You do not need to know anything more about Freud or psychoanalysis than is stated here to answer the question well. Treat Freud as an intelligent reader trying, like you, to interpret the play well.

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