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A Short Analysis of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

An introduction to a classic play

The plot of Sophocles’ great tragedy Oedipus the King (sometimes known as Oedipus Rex or Oedipus Tyrannos) has long been admired. In his Poetics, Aristotle held it up as the exemplary Greek tragedy. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it one of the three perfect plots in all of literature (the other two being Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones). Oedipus the King might also be called the first detective story in Western literature. Yet how well do we know Sophocles’ play? And what does a closer analysis of its plot features and themes reveal? Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about The Merchant of Venice

Fun facts about Shakespeare’s play

1. Contrary to popular belief, the ‘merchant of Venice’ in the title of Shakespeare’s play isn’t Shylock. In the popular consciousness – i.e. among those who are aware that Shakespeare’s play contains a character named Shylock but who haven’t read or seen the play – Shylock is the merchant of Venice referred to in Shakespeare’s title. But of course the merchant is really Antonio, and Shylock the Jewish man who makes him a loan; as the scholar Stephen Greenblatt has observed, this popular misunderstanding says a great deal about how Shylock comes to dominate the play in which he appears, eclipsing all other characters. Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Fun facts about a classic play

1. The first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was on Candlemas, 1602. Candlemas is 2 February – better-known in the United States as Groundhog Day – and was the date on which Christmas decorations were often traditionally taken down in Shakespeare’s time (unlike these days, when it’s traditional to take them down by – oddly enough – Twelfth Night). Shakespeare’s classic comedy of cross-dressing, separated siblings, love, puritanism, and yellow stockings was possibly first recorded in February 1602, though there may well have been an earlier (unrecorded) performance, perhaps a year earlier. Read the rest of this entry