Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oedipus Act 1.
A play based on Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”

© Eso A. B., 2014
Act One
(King Oedipus comes to the stage through the courtyard gate. He approaches the altar, the priest, his daughter Ismene, and all who are gathered around. He embraces and kisses Prince Geon.)
Savior! Savior!
Blessed by Your Name
in song without end.
King Oedipus:
My children, my sons, my daughters,
Citizens of Thebes,
why do you listen
to a priest write words so strange
that no one understands their meaning?
Why are you so sad?
I’ve come to listen
and learn.
What ails you?
Why are you listening to this frog?

(The King turns to the priest.)

You, with the long white shirt

—I don’t know your name—
You’ve ribbited and croaked long enough

of congregations long vanished.
Why do you disturb
men and women of the wood,
all proud cityzens of Thebes now?
Speak to me
on behalf of those not used to addressing a King.
What do they fear?
What do they want?

King of Thebes, King Odipus!
Archpriest Tiresias bade me come
to speak to young and old,
Thebans all.
See, oh King, 
we are bent around the altar,
we are presenting our offerings, our gifts:
bread soaked in honey,

honeyed bits of cheese, and fruit.
We await the Gods.

But no Spirits come.
We can wait no longer,
lest clouds of wasps and flies
add their sting 
to our fears.
There are murmurings, King Oedipus,
that Artemis, Mother Earth, 

is sending forth
toads croaking for the blood
of our congregation;
perhaps the blood of our children
—as in the times when
not even a dozen sacred whores
with their arses high and heads low,
all bent to welcome insatiable John,
could move the God to listen.

Look, O King Oedipus!

The air does not move.
We wait for the incense to rise and curl
as when a spirit is present.
Instead we smell
burnt fur 
and our ears hear silent ridicule.

O King, our prayers speak our fears.
King Oedipus, call the Gods;

call our great-grandfather Cadmus;
raise your hands to the Sun,
speak loving words.

Many years ago you brought us better days.
You freed us from the curse of the Sphinx.
You cleared the sacred wood of sinister thickets,
where we abandoned our babes and the old,
who had followed the flag
of jugglers and piping dancers.
The poor 
weary from walking
miles of mountain roads
fell asleep yet on their feet.
Some were overcome
by panic.
We, guardians of children 
and sacred trees alike,
too, fell by the roadsides from exhaustion
and pain of heart.

Though we prayed,
we prayed without hope

until you came and saved us,
O Savior, Oedipus!
Because of you we no longer fear
dark tales about wolves.
Because of you
our children no longer swing their arms
trusting they can fly across any abyss

we thrust them into.
Because of you, Savior,
we no longer dream of vultures
with faces like that of angels 

on blue wing
raising everyone 

smiling from the dead.
King Oedipus, Savior 

of our children then,
we’ve suffered a stroke 

to our will again.

No one smiles, no one laughs.
We beg you,
Savior of children and all,
to speak to our congregation again
with power that saves.
Don’t hold back your healing hands

or endearing words.
Don’t let anyone say 

 you promised us light,
yet a dark shadows return.

King Oedipus::
Dear citizens of Thebes, my children,
your hope gives me hope.
I know your pain.
I am of flesh like you.

However, you surely know
that I suffer more.
I suffer misfortunes of my own

as well as the misfortunes of Thebes.

Like you, I, too, have children,

I give them much thought
and believe

I know
where to look and find the answer.

I’ve sent Prince Creon,
the Hercules of loggers,
brother of Queen Iocasta,
and auditioner of thousands
of reindeer bleats,
a man bound by painful oaths.

You surely know 
thats honesty is a tax collector’s                             .
invention for failure

to render tax collectors
their due.
This very moment
Creon is visiting 
the Sun's holy temples,
and consults with the priestesses of the Sun.
All throw acorns

struck from oaks by lightning
and have been moldering 
in wait of the occasion.
This very moment
the priesteses read 
by the lay of the acorn's fall
what we must do to save Thebes.

The guards in the tower signal
Prince Creon has returned.

King Oedipus:
With good news, I hope.

The news is good.
Prince Creon comes
with a smile on his face.

King Oedipus:
We’ll soon know.
.... Here he is.
Greetings, Prince!
(Enter Prince Creon.)

Prince Creon:
Hail, King Oedipus!
How hails Thebes?
King, I have an urgent message for you.

Let the servants dust my sandals.
Then let us go to your chambers,
where I can rest my feet

and tell all I have learned.

King Oedipus:
Prince, do not wait to speak.
Speak here, now.
We’re all anxious to hear
what must be done to heal?

Prince Creon:
The Sun wants deeds not words.
If I tell Her revelations without regard,
it may bring some to rash conclusions,
others perhaps to rash deeds.

King Oedipus:
What revelations, what deeds?
We need no mystery.

What is the message?

Prince Creon (whispers):
The Sun’s maids send you
in lieu of reindeer fur
a sack full of gold.

King Oedipus:
It is no secret
that our cityzens welcome gifts.
Gold has a heavenly shine.
do not delay.
Tell us what you know.
What did the Sun's maids tell you?
Tell us.
All Thebes suffers one pain.

Prince Creon (reluctantly):
Remember that government
is of the righteousness of a King
without fault.
No one must be in doubt.
Therefore, what you hear
isn’t told by me,
but was told me
by the maids of the Sun.

With their ears licked clean 

of holy nectar
by the larva of bees,
the maids said:

"Go weed the weed
before its roots sink to depths,
whence we no longer can uproot it.
Only a hand with four fingers
has the power to do it.

King Oedipus:
What weeds are you talking about?
Who is born with four fingers?
Harvest time has come and gone..
Weeding time is past.

Prince Creon:
The weed, King Oedipus, is a man.
We must find a man

and remove him
from the midst of our cityzens.
The Sun didn’t give his name.
That is for us to discover.

Else Thebes will be in debt to a murderer.
His roots like that of a lilac
will sprout upward.
The odor of the King
will turn stink.
King Oedipus:
A murderer? Who?

Prince Creon:
King Oedipus,
it is not a secret to you
that before you came to Thebes,
we were governed by King Laius.
He was son of King Cadmus,
the founder of Thebes,
whose cowardly sons,
Otus and Ephialtes, 
cowered and failed
to sacrifice their little fingers
for the sake of Thebes.
Therefore, Cadmus put his own
finger between the Dragon’s teeth,
thereby gaining the right
to restore harmony 
by cutting off the right arms 
of his twins.
King Oedipus:
I know of this King, but never met him.
I am told he blinded himself
out of  grief! 

When his sons
mistook each other for a reindeer
and with their spears 
struck themselves not the deer.
Where should we look for the murderer?
Have you seen his footprints?
What evidence will lead us to him?

Prince Creon:
We have to look in our own land.
We must overlook the shadows cast by words,

but must look at deeds.
It is deeds alone that tell what happened.
We must look for a man 
with five fingers.

King Oedipus (folding his hands one into the other):
Did King Oedipus die in his castle?
I have heard that king Laius died traveling 

through another land,
in a wood.
I have heard rumours 
that a man
reluctant to kill his reindeer for taxes 
killed him
Prince Creon:
The king had an appointment

with certain men bringing him secrets
from a neighboring kingdom.
They met in the wood.
The king never returned.
All his bodyguards,
all honest tax collectors,
all sworn to support our holy empire
were killed, 

but one.

King Oedipus:
Secret meetings in the wood are risky.

What said the survivor?
Can he identify the perpetrators,

the traitors?
How many were there?

Creon Prince:
The man gave no clear answer.
He said he saw our king laid to his rest
in a wild boar’s muddy wallow
with but leafy branches

to cover his sacred body.
He told that he could lead us 

to the remains.
But he was poisoned
before we could tell you

his secret. 

Thus, no roots of sacred tree
stich Laius’s remains

to Mother Artemis
as ancient custom calls for.
The king's ghost moans 
in the wind at night.

King Oedipus:

That means the murderers
have friends among us.
Did the man have a wife?
We need some clue.

Prince Creon:
The man had no wife.
He left no descendants.
He worked as a hand at the king’s stable
and left no inheritance 

other than the clay dork
he used to pleasure the kitchen maids with.

King Oedipus:
Was Laius’ bodyguard of impotent men?

Prince Creon:
We tried to follow the murderers’ tracks,

But they had sheathed

the hooves of their reindeer in rags.
They left no marks.

King Oedipus:
I’m grateful to the Sun
for Her advice.
I’m thankful, Prince Creon, for the news.
My children, take your garlands
And return to your homes.
Call a Council of our Elders.
Tell their King wishes to consult with them.

The men who killed King Laius 

are a threat to us all.
I will do all I can to discover them.
The government and citizens of Thebes

must be protected.
Rise, Thebans.
Our prayers have been heard.
King Oedipus will save us as surely
as his forebears laid Thebes foundations.

(Exit King Oedipus et al. Only the Chorus remains.)

Goddess of Hope!
Tell us the words writ
on the roof of the cupola
over the sylvan well in the deeps of the wood.
Let the flickering light writ on hammered gold
shed blessings on Thebes.

Dear Sun, comfort our uneasy hearts.
We are much relieved to be free

of the need  

to sacrifice our children
and are free of the curse
to kill ourselves in their place.

Hail King Oedipus.
The King has released us 
of our paralysis!
He did us a service once,

he will save us again.

It was said that after the Sphinx

was driven from the wood,
her priest issued a curse:

“Men, women, and King”, he shouted,
“will have to sacrifice themselves 

for letting children live!"
Remember what King Cadmus said?
“Only when we are ready

to sacrifice our little finger,
and throw it 

between standing armies
and have them stare at it 

only then
will they begin to taunt each other 
of cowardice long enough
to fall prey
to their own swords.
Only then will war

become a healing force.”

The charisma of sacrifice will unite us
in a history worth blessing.”

Ha! Spare us!
Today our children roam foreign lands.
and relish losing themselves 

in crowds.
Become anonymous,
they have no responsibilities.
They act with boldness

that is never held to account.
They will defend to the end

the rights of their little finger.
They say they need all their fingers
if they are to grow rich.

Our teeth chatter like the beaks of storks.

We fear the other side of the moon
is crisscrossed by blood.

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