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his kitchen, piling three waggon-loads of oak on the hearth, filling an enormous bowl with the milk of his cows' setting a huge pot on the fire, and heating several spits; after which he seized two of the Ithacans, dashed out their brains, and then boiled one and roasted the other, whilst he, Ulysses, was compelled to minister to the monster. He left him talking of sharing his wine with some brother giants; and he now comes in, shouting to the stranger to bring the cask. Silenus, however, persuades him to enjoy his potations alone, and he so far relents towards Ulysses as to ask his name, and to promise to eat him last. My name is 'Nobody,' Ulysses tells him, and plies him so well with wine that he is soon sound asleep, when the travellers, seizing the pointed trunk of an olive tree heated in the fire, thrust it into the eye of the insensible barbarian, whilst the Chorus sing an appropriate and encouraging accompaniment to the operation. Rousing up in pain and fury, the giant strives to bar the way and catch them as they make their escape, but he only strikes his head against the rocky walls, or is misguided by the Chorus, who taunt him that 'Nobody' has blinded him, and therefore no one is to blame.
Ulysses now tells his real name to the baffled monster, who confesses that an ancient oracle foretold that he would lose his sight by the hero's hand, but adds that it predicted also that he should pay the penalty by a long wandering over the homeless sea.
Of the other plays of Euripides, several contain some beautiful poetry, and some effective scenes; but they were either written for special occasions, or relate entirely to the politics of the day; and, consequently, none of them are sufficiently national in plot or allusions to be interesting to a modern general reader.
DIED B.C. 406.
HIS poet was contemporary with the two dramatists whose plays have already been noticed; but he was
many years younger than Eschylus, and his tragedies bear the impress of the gradual transition of Greek thought from a blind belief in destiny to the doctrine of divine retribution, with the consequent substitution of human sympathies and affections, as the springs of action, for the wild conceptions and exaggerated passions portrayed by his older competitor. He also more fully developed the musical accessories of the stage.
EDIPUS THE KING.
No fiction was ever conceived more horrible than the plot of this play, a man slaying his father, and marrying his mother; and yet, as worked up by Sophocles, it was considered by Aristotle the master-piece of tragedy.
Laius, King of Thebes, having no child by his wife Jocasta, appeals to the oracle at Delphi, and is told that a son shall be born to him, but that he will die by his hand. To avert this calamity his mother exposes the infant in the
wilderness; but a shepherd carries him to Polybus, King of Corinth, whose wife, being also childless, adopted the foundling, and he grows up in the belief that he is heir to Polybus. Thirty years afterwards Laius makes another pilgrimage to Delphi, and on his way home is slain by an unknown hand. Creon succeeds him, but his reign is brief, for the Sphinx, a monster combining a woman's face, a bird's wings, and the tail and claws of a lion, had proposed a riddle which no Theban could solve, and the life of a citizen was the penalty for each failure. Creon offered the crown, and the hand of Jocasta, to whoever would unravel the mystery. Edipus comes from Corinth, and, on hearing the riddle, which was, 'A being with four feet has two feet and three feet and only one voice; but its feet vary, and when it has most it is weakest;' he at once interpreted it thus:
'Man it is thou hast described, first as a babe, four-footed creeping his way; then in old age as a third foot he useth
He is accordingly made king, and by Jocasta, not knowing she is his mother, has sons and daughters. Heaven and earth are silent for a generation, and then bear joint witness against him. Pestilence smites the cattle, mildew blights the products of the earth, and children die at their birth. The gods are appealed to in vain, and, in the opening scene of the play, a throng of citizens are seated before the palace with laurel and olive branches, the emblems of supplication, in their hands. Edipus tells them he has already sent Creon to consult the oracle at Delphi, and the late king brings back the answer that the murderer of Laius must be found and punished ere the troubles of the people will cease. Edipus undertakes the discovery, and threatens the most terrible vengeance on the perpetrator of the crime. He consults Tiresias, the old blind soothsayer, who declares him to be the culprit, upon which he taxes Creon with instigating the prophecy, a charge which the Chorus support him in disavowing. Edipus is confident in his own innocence, until the queen mentions that the murder took place at a spot where three ways meet. Then he relates how, on his way from Corinth, he was pushed aside
by an old man in a chariot, with a herald and servants, and had slain them all. He feels that on his own head he has invoked the irrevocable curses; but Jocasta is still incredulous, and sends for the slave by whom, at the time, news was brought that a band of robbers were the assailants. During the pause the Chorus moralise on the frequent downfalls of pride, and the fate of those who by haughty deed and lofty tone, do spurn the gods, and suffer a heavier punishment from the reproaches of conscience than from a stroke of steel. Then a messenger arrives from Corinth with intelligence of the death of Polybus, and that Edipus has been elected his successor. 'Who need now believe the oracle!' exclaims Jocasta in her joy. But the messenger proceeds to tell the story of the adoption of Edipus by the Corinthian queen, and when the question is raised, who was the mother of the child, Jocasta rushes from the stage in despair. The aged shepherd who found the child is now brought before Edipus who, on hearing his evidence, exclaims in agony, 'Woe, woe, all cometh clear at last,' and retires horror-stricken. The Chorus having mourned over the vanity of life, an attendant comes in to announce that Jocasta has hanged herself, and that Edipus has pierced his eyes with the point of her buckle, and is blind. The palace doors are rolled back, and he appears with the blood streaming from his mutilated eyes, whilst the Chorus hide their faces in their robes, asking why he has thus doomed himself,
'As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
He replies he has been fast bound to the wheel of necessity, and that Apollo has prompted his act. Creon now enters, and Edipus begs that Jocasta may be buried as a king's daughter, that he may be lodged in some vast wilderness, and that his two daughters may be cared for. They come in and embrace him, as he mournfully dwells on their unhappy destiny, the play concluding with a warning from the Chorus to the audience to
'Think on this, short-sighted mortal,
And, till life's deciding close,
Dare not to pronounce thy fellow
Till, the bounds of life passed over,
CEDIPUS AT COLONUS.
CONTRARY to his wish, he remained at Thebes for many years, dutifully cared for by his daughters. Antigone and Ismene, and hoping for a peaceful death. But Creon, who has resumed the throne, at the suggestion of the sons of Edipus, Eteocles and Polynices, has at length driven him forth a wanderer on the face of the earth, still tended by Antigone, and,
'Forgetting their first sad life, and home,
And all that Theban woe, they stray
Through sunny glens, or on the warm sea-shore,"
until they reach the village of Colonus, near Athens, a situa tion teeming with natural beauties, and a favourite shrine with more than one of the deities. Learning the sacredness of the spot from a passer by, he supplicates the gods for pity on the wasted spectral form that once was Edipus. The Chorus, however, consisting of aged citizens of Colonus, enter, indignant that he should set foot in the holy grove, and, as his daughter leads him away, they elicit who he is, upon which they insist that he instantly leaves their coast. But Edipus appeals to their king, Theseus; when suddenly Ismene arrives with the news that her brothers are quarrelling for the crown of Thebes, and that Creon is on his way to secure their father, in order that, when he dies, his tomb may protect the city. The Chorus tell him he must first make his peace with the avenger of the dead, by offering a solemn libation, after which, by a whispered prayer to the Eumenides, he will obtain rest and pardon. He, however, deputes his daughters to perform the prescribed ceremonies; and, during their absence, Theseus arrives to condole with him. Edipus tells him of the desire for his