script by Judith Huang, 2001
Oedipus has died. But there are a number of angels who violently object to his presence in heaven. However, there is hope for Oedipus yet, for you and other like-minded angels are going to root for him.
Prepare a full argument that Oedipus’ greatest fault is not arrogance, nor is it incest or parricide, but only curiosity. Provide evidence from the heavenly transcripts of earthly conversations in Oedipus Rex, the text.
Jieying (as Propangel): So, who’s next on our waiting list?
Judith (as Oppangel): I believe it’s Oedipus, a good and noble king of Thebes. Deceased at least 3 millenia ago.
Jieying (as Propangel): Oedipus…that human who – (eyes widen in horror) Didn’t he marry his mother, kill his father…?
Judith (as Oppangel): Er…yes…but…
Jieying (as Propangel): (growing more horrified by the second) That man has no place in Heaven, exclusive territory of the pure and virtuous!
Judith (as Oppangel): No…it was not like that at all! I MUST protest. Oedipus was an honourable man and I can’t allow you to ruin his chances in Heaven! (makes a very unangelic lunge for PA)
Jieying (as Propangel): HOLD it. I propose that we review this case in a more civilised manner.
Judith (as Oppangel): (a beat) I see. A debate.
Amanda hands Blin the first God paper.
The Heavenly Court Proceedings Entry #567812
Blin (as God): Good eternity, my subservient creations, and welcome to the Heavenly Court Debate, round #567812, also known as Blin’s Lit Lesson. The motion for today is “This house believes that Oedipus should not be allowed in heaven”.
Amanda (as Chairman): On the side of the proposition, we have the Propangel, and on the side of the opposition, we have the Oppangel. (Whatever position Blin is in, e.g. seated on the right), is the Judge, Blin, also known as God Almighty. I now invite the only speaker of the Proposition to present her case.
Jieying (as Propangel): Good eternity, God (bow to Blin) and fellow angels. As the only speaker of the proposition, I propose the motion, THBT Oedipus should not be allowed in Heaven.
What does this mean? Simply that Oedipus’ sins are too great to qualify him for eternal life in Heaven. What then, are these sins? The proposition divides them into two categories – action and attitude.
First of all, let us look at Oedipus’ sinful actions – incest and parricide. In killing his father and marrying his mother, he broke the most sacred taboos of his society. He killed his own father, and married his own mother. Let me stress to you, God and fellow angels, that this is no trivial matter. Oedipus’s marriage to the woman who gave birth to him is an act of gross unnaturalness. It is contrary to all common morality. It is an act of sexual perversity, and certainly has no place in Heaven.
Now, his second sin – parricide. Oedipus killed his own father, God and fellow angels! The taking of a life is already a terrible crime, but the murder of one’s own father is a thousand times worse! Murderers are routinely condemned to burn in Hell, as a matter of principle. What more could be said for father-killers?
Judith: Point of information, ma’am
Jieying: Yes, ma’am
Judith: But he did that out of ignorance, and intention is…
Jieying: I am going to address that point. Perhaps, the opposition may argue, he didn’t really intend to commit incest or parricide, and this makes him innocent. But we in heaven firmly believe that it is the deed that matters. Intention does not change the facts! The fact remains that Laius was murdered by his own son. The fact remains that Jocasta was so shamed that she was driven to suicide. The fact remains that their tragic deaths were Oedipus’ fault. THE FACT REMAINS that he DID commit incest and parricide. Are you saying that just because Oedipus was ignorant, the blood on his hands can be washed away? No! He was no less guilty of his crimes, and must be punished accordingly.
Now, to my second point – Oedipus’ sinful attitude. Oedipus was sinfully arrogant. Although we recognise Oedipus as a man of many talents, his so-called superiority did not justify his blatant arrogance, which can easily be seen in the things he said: (remote)
Brenda (as Oedipus): I, Oedipus, whose name is known afar.
Jieying:(remote)This disgusting arrogance contributed to Oedipus’ downfall. It led to obstinacy. He refused to listen to anyone else, as can be seen in this earthly example: (remote)
Brenda (as Oedipus): I doubt your eloquence will teach me much. You are my bitterest enemy; that I know.
Zhenling (as Creon): First, let me tell you—
Brenda (as Oedipus): Tell me anything except that you’re honest.
Zhenling (as Creon): Can you believe this obstinacy does you any good?
Brenda and Zhenling freeze, Jieying gives an interesting comment.
Jieying: He was always so overconfident with his superiority, that he couldn’t accept the possibility of his being wrong.
Brenda (as Oedipus): I know I’m right.
Zhenling (as Creon): In your own eyes, not in mine.
Brenda: You are a knave.
Zhenling: And what if you are mistaken?
Brenda: Kings must rule.
Zhenling: Not when they rule unjustly.
Brenda: Hear him, Thebes! My city!
Jieying: (remote) An egomaniac’s cry! He was similarly rough with Teiresias, who actually knew the truth, and could have helped him, as can be seen here:
Brenda: Do you think you can say such things with impunity?
Amanda (as Teiresias): I do- if truth has any power to save.
Brenda: It has, but not for you, no, not for you Shameless and brainless, sightless, senseless sot!
Jieying: This proves that Oedipus wasn’t as noble as he was made out to be! After all…
Zhenling (as Chorus): Pride breeds the tyrant;…shall he escape his doomed pride’s punishment?
Jieying: Of course, the fact was that he was wrong. While he was busy slamming others, he was unaware of his own faults, which were far more serious than Creon’s or Teiresias’. This is blind arrogance, or hubris, and it was utterly unjustified.
In the end, his own stubbornness unmasked the truth, at his expense. Notice that despite various warnings by other people, he stubbornly continued to probe for evidence. If he had only listened, perhaps he wouldn’t have come to his ruin.
This is, on the other hand, proof that sin can never escape punishment, and justice will always be done. Why, then, should Oedipus be allowed into Heaven? It’s Heaven’s duty to set high standards of purity and virtue, and Oedipus has clearly sinned beyond redemption. Imagine allowing such a sinner into our midst! The credibility and image of Heaven will be stained for all eternity! Thus, I rest my case. The motion, THBT Oedipus should be allowed in Heaven, must stand. Thank you.
Amanda (as Chairman): The only speaker of the Proposition took __ min and __ sec. I now invite the only speaker of the Opposition to present her case.
Judith (as Oppangel):
Good eternity, God (bows to Blin), and fellow angels. As the only speaker of the Opposition in this heavenly debate, I must disagree with what the proposition has just said. Although I cannot disprove that Oedipus committed both incest and parricide, and was to a certain degree arrogant, he has made an admirable effort in redeeming himself, and does not deserve to be condemned.
First, I shall deal with the proposition’s points on incest and parricide. These actions were done in complete ignorance. He did not intend to sin. Oedipus did not know that he had married his mother and killed his father.
Oedipus won his bride while rescuing Thebes from the Sphinx. Can you say that he sinned because he had the compassion and courage to save Thebes? No. Can you say that he sinned because he killed in order to defend his pride? No. Perhaps, in this time and age, it would be considered rash and foolish of Oedipus to murder a man for so slight a cause, but remember, God and angels, that Oedipus lived three millennia ago. In any other situation, Greek legality would have allowed Oedipus to kill to defend his honour. His sin was not the murder of a man, but the murder of his father, which he did not recognise! Therefore, he committed parricide in utter innocence!
Surely acts committed in ignorance do not play a part in heaven’s condemnation!
Jieying: Point of Information, ma’am. The fact still remains that he has committed a terrible sin, ma’am.
Judith: Again I stress, it is the intention that determines sin! I shall now proceed with the proposition’s second point.
Yes, Oedipus was arrogant, as the proposition has presented evidence true to the heavenly transcripts on this point. However, he had other, greater qualities that redeemed his hubris. For example, Oedipus was a good man – he came to Thebes to save it from its suffering. His compassion in saving Thebes from the Sphinx earned him his place as the King of Thebes. Oedipus was a good King – he promised to do his best in hunting down Liaus’ murderer. He was the greatest of men. It is not arrogance for him to say so. Let us refer to the words of the Priest (picks up remote control)
Amanda (as Priest): “If we come to you now, sir, as your suppliants,
“I and these children, it is not as holding you
The equal of gods, but as the first of men”
Judith: These words show that the people held Oedipus as the first of men. Even the priest, who represented the gods, admitted so. Thus, Oedipus was justified in thinking of himself as a great man.
Now I shall move on to my substantive. I shall now prove that it was in fact curiosity that was Oedipus’ greatest failing, not the actions or attitudes pointed out by the proposition. Then, I shall further elaborate on how even this fault is negligible in the face of Oedipus’ redeeming virtues.
Curiosity, perhaps, may be named as Oedipus’ greatest fault; had he not been curious and found out more about the prophecy, he would never have left Corinth and caused himself all the trouble. Curiosity is innocent, my friends. In fact, it is almost noble – it is the pursuit of truth. If Oedipus’ only fault was curiosity, how could he be called sinful?
It is this relentless pursuit of the truth that caused Oedipus to discover the shame he committed. He did this even in the face of Jocasta’s repeated requests that he stop. (remote)
Enter Brenda (Oedipus) and Zhenling (Jocasta), Brenda in noble, uncompromising pose and Zhenling pleading.
Zhenling (as Jocasta): “No! In God’s name – if you want to live, this must not go on.” (freeze, unfreeze) “I implore you, do not do it.”
(freeze, unfreeze) “I know I am right. I am warning you for your good.”
Judith: On realising his so-called sins, Oedipus demonstrated his nobility in a great, unnecessary act of repentance.
Enter Brenda and Zhenling (as Jocasta) who act out what is read about them
Judith: What does he do? He reduces himself to a blind, humbled man, condemned to live as a pariah. He condemns himself to the full punishment he dictated, not even sparing himself. He was no coward, unlike Jocasta who committed suicide. (Zhenling hangs herself) He forced himself to go on living, my friends – blinded and stripped to a fragment of the proud man he was.
Clearly, that Oedipus was a noble man whose virtues far outweighed his failings. He more than redeemed himself with these virtues. His willingness to repent, his capacity for suffering, his sense of responsibility, his unshakeable principles. These virtues mark him as a man worthy of nothing less than heaven. He has repented. How can we deny him entry?
In conclusion, the opposition poses these questions: must a man be perfect before he can be considered ‘good’? Oedipus has repented his sins, if they can be considered sins. And that must be good enough, if not more than necessary. Lesser men have been considered good, and accepted into heaven. If even a man like Oedipus is refused, wouldn’t heaven be an echoingly empty place?
It is true that judgement means that every sin must be punished. But with justice there also comes mercy. For this has come down to a debate between fact and situation, between cold, hard evidence and Godly compassion. And it can only be solved with the application of Mercy to Justice.
And so on Oedipus’ behalf I implore, most honourable Judge, that on account of these things I have shown you, that you show mercy to this man.
Amanda (as Chairman): The only speaker on the side of the Opposition took __ minutes and __ seconds. The Judge will now be given a 0 minute recess to make his decision. Will both sides of the house please take note that the judge’s decision is final, since it’s already been written on this piece of paper he’s supposed to read out. ( Amanda hands Blin second slip of paper for God)
Blin (as God): Since the question I set was that the Angels of this house prepare a full argument that Oedipus’ greatest fault is neither arrogance, incest or parricide but mere curiosity, I hereby declare the Opposition the victor in this debate. Let Oedipus into heaven.
Jieying looks glum, goes over to shake hands with an ecstatic Judith
Brenda: But I’m Greek! I believe in reincarnation! I demand that I be banished from this place! I don’t want to go to heaven!
Blin (as God): That is of no consequence.
Anyway, this verdict is microscopic. To take a more macroscopic view of these proceedings, I also hereby declare that these Angels be awarded top marks and extra credit for their excruciating effort in 1) presenting both cases instead of just one, 2) making it amusing and educational at the same time, and 3) ingenuously putting words in God’s mouth.
Amanda (as Chairman): The next motion for the Heavenly Court Debates, which will be debated next millennium, is “This house believes that teachers are not gods”. Thank you.
Amanda (2) Brenda (6) Judith (7) Zhenling (10) Jieying (12)
Guest starring Blin (unregistered)