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Two Oedipal Plays


New takes on Hamlet and a “lost” drama of Sophocles

Two Oedipal Plays

Sophocles is best known for Oedipus the King, in which the protagonist discovers—to his horror—that he has slain his father and married his mother. In one guise or another this thematic material is familiar territory for Sophocles; it arises in at least two more of his dramas, including Odysseus Acanthoplex.

In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud explains that Hamlet is unable to avenge his father's murder because of his repressed Oedipus complex—i.e., because Claudius has killed Hamlet's father and now sleeps with Hamlet's mother, and thus "shows him [i.e., Hamlet] the repressed wishes of childhood realized." However, we know that Hamlet will ultimately slay his [step-]father. Moreover, in Act III, scene iv Hamlet explicitly instructs his mother not to sleep with the King: suggestively Oedipal material, to say the least.

Lenny Cavallaro has written a very short, one-act Hamlet and a conjectural "restoration" of Odysseus Acanthoplex. In both texts we encounter similar thematic motifs, and while the works are vastly different, the pairing is indeed coherent.


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