Friday, June 3, 2016

Oedipus Rex: The New Russo-Syrian Version

Starring Vladimir Putin as Oedipus and Sergey Lavrov as Tiresias

The illustrious Syrian actress Muna Wassef, or as I grew up calling her, Mom, plays Jocasta in Sophocles Oedipus Rex, Al-Hamrah Theater, Damascus – early 1970s. This may not have been the first play that I watched but that image of Mom is indelibly imprinted on my mind. She’ll always be my queen, Freudian implications be damned.


Oedipus
Let me see if I got this right, Tiresias. You’re saying that I have, unwittingly, killed my father and married my mother, and since, according to that famous Syrian proverb, anyone who marries my mother becomes my uncle, I am now my own uncle… is that it?
Tiresias
Well, eh, to an extent, yes, but…
Oedipus
So, I don’t have a father, and my mother is my wife, so I shouldn’t really be listening to her, and am my own uncle,  doesn’t that imply that, in a traditional sense, no one really lords over me.
Tiresias
Well, yeah, except for the gods of course, for whom I happen to speak.
Oedipus
Indeed, but then, I can always accuse you of being mad when you say things I don’t like.
Tiresias
True. But, to paraphrase good old Sophocles: to throw away a sycophant friend is, as it were, to throw your life away.
Oedipus
Still, I am free. Really, really free.
Tiresias
I am not really sure if you’re getting the point of it all…
Oedipus
What’s not get? The road to freedom, to becoming masters of your own fate, is really quite clear: kill your fathers, fuck your mothers, become your own uncles, and accuse the gods’ self-appointed spokesghouls of being mad when they say things you don’t like. Now, I might have unwittingly gone about it all too literally. The more practical way might call for doing this by proxy: kill other people’s fathers and fuck their mothers, etc. Other than that, Sophocles is right: chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day. This way, I will not suffer either in reality, or in retrospect.  
Tiresias
I withdraw my earlier assessment my Lord. By Dionysus, hell, by Freud himself, I think you’ve got it.
© Ammar Abdulhamid 2016

Orson Wells, as Oedipus Rex, 1967