What do I want my students to get out of Oedipus? I do not necessarily want them to imitate Oedipus, nor do I wish his suffering on anyone. But an artistic experience can help give shape or expression to and even preparation for life experiences. We lead a life that is significantly richer, fuller, and wiser — notice I did not say happier — if we follow Oedipus and learn some of what he learns.

Lasting happiness is always our expectation but always an illusion; that we may never know for sure if we are the playthings of the gods or of some higher destiny, but we must act as though there is free will.

In our current age of irresponsibility, evasiveness, public relations, anti-intellectualism, rhetorical inflation, moral deflation, trivia, and, unbelievable but true, lingering Olliemania: now, as much as ever, maybe more than ever, we need to seek out tragedians whose major skill and major lesson is, as J.T. Sheppard puts it, "to face the facts of life". This is why I teach Oedipus, this is the way I teach Oedipus, and this is some of what Oedipus has taught me.

This article is based on a lecture delivered at the The Greeks Institute, a series of lectures presented to secondary school teachers in the Bridgeport Public Schools during the spring of 1989. Co-sponsored by the Connecticut Humanities Council, Sacred Heart University, and the Bridgeport Public Schools, the purpose of the institute has been to provide teachers with an interdisciplinary exploration of classical Greece for the purposes of professional enrichment and curriculum development.



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