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Experiencing a work of art is equivalent to falling in love. Who knows if it’ll go the distance?




At the outset of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος, Oedipus speaks 14 lines. Then, the Priest of Zeus speaks 43 lines. Oedipus responds with 19 lines.


Oedipus and Priest occupy the same physical space—e.g., the stage—yet the speech of each works independent of each other’s, as if each exists in one’s own world and is superimposed together with the other via CGI wizardry.


The multi-referential psychoanalytic vibe encoded in the DNA of Oedipus’ words is absent in the words of the Priest. Let’s say the character of Oedipus radiates at full-colour and the Priest is B&W. The Priest’s communications exceed the face value of his speech, but his information radiance has fewer spectra to it; the Priest is less dimensional than Oedipus.


The storytelling finesse in all this is spectacular. The Priest exists in an entirely different world from Oedipus (so to speak), yet Sophocles plaits them together—for a spectacular example—in a phrase that exists far beyond the understanding of the Priest who speaks it : “Οἰδίπους χώρας” (14). This phrase syncs up with the Oracle’s words : “μίασμα χώρας” (97). This sync is a Sophoclean clue—a wry authorial perversity—heard by the characters but (comically?) unrecognized by them. All the information required by everyone in the play to understand their Situation is right here in the sync of Οἰδίπους = μίασμα = χώρας. Woven into the DNA of the words of Sophocles—and into the shared universe of the characters—is the Fate of : Oedipus = sick = us. The Priest is plaited into a Sophoclean Situation but doesn’t know it, like Dr. Bill in the χώρας (“place”) of Rainbow Fashions.




The Priest using “Οἰδίπους χώρας” (14) is a Genius Move by Sophocles. The Priest is synced up in a Situation too vast for him to know of. This technique returns (e.g.) in the Chorus’ use of “ἄνακτ᾽ ἄνακτι” (284) (Master Master). Repetition of this kind is a foundational structure encoded by Sophocles in his language, and appears throughout the play in the lines of different characters, each unwitting of their participation in a larger Sophoclean world.


(“You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't.”)


The characters of Sophocles, however confident, have no idea where they are or what they’re doing. Storyteller Sophocles, meanwhile, perverse hacky-sacking nihilist, enjoys the show.




The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


EINSTEIN : “Who’s working on it at Berkeley?” OPPENHEIMER : “Hans Bethe.” EINSTEIN : “He’ll get to the truth.” (63)


CHORUS : Τειρεσίαν, παρ᾽ οὗ τις ἂν

σκοπῶν τάδ᾽, ὦναξ, ἐκμάθοι σαφέστατα.


Tiresias—if you ask him, you’ll learn sure. (285–6)




Οἰδίπους in, say, an episode of The Simpsons


Remember the casting of Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989)? At the time, before the film was released, the buzz regarding this point was incredulous. How could a comic actor play the superhero? As it turned out, the casting brought out a vibe that the audience welcomed—Burton’s Batman was a colossal hit.


This strategy may work in identifying the triple tone in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος. Shall we imagine Oedipus as imagined by the creators of The Simpsons?—but without changing the words of the original (so to speak : responsible translation, of course, is required).


What follows is Oedipus’ monologue to the city at the opening of Act II. Every stanza that follows is an example of (at least) “double-speak”. The relentlessness of the “(at least) double-speak”—line by line by line—is a component of the breathtaking technics of Sophocles.



You ask of me. As you ask, and if you are willing

to hear and accept these words of mine,

you may find help and receive relief from distress.


I shall speak of this Situation as a stranger to the story,

and as a stranger to this deed.

I would not get far along the track, since I have no clue;

but, considering all that’s happened, and that I am now a citizen among citizens,

I hereby declare this to all the townspeople :


Whoever knows who it was who killed your former king Laius, tell me.

If you’re afraid to face your own guilt, do not worry—

you shall suffer no more. You shall be sent away from our land unpunished.


But if any of you do know, whether citizen or foreigner,

who it was who raised his hand as killer,

do not keep silent.


I can grant rewards, and you will receive our eternal thanks.


But if you keep silent—If, afraid for yourself or for a friend,

you ignore my orders, hear now what my response will be.


I forbid you to stay in this land,

where I possess the throne and hold sway.

You shall receive no shelter here, and no one shall speak to you.

You will have no share in our prayers to the gods, in no sacred rites,

in no purifications [i.e., with holy water].

You will be banished from all houses here,

since the city is sick,

as the Pythian God has just brought to light to me.


This is the way I shall fight for the god and for the man who has died.


Even if the god had not advised us of this Situation,

you should not have allowed what happened to go unpunished,

since a man so noble—your king—has died.

No. You should have investigated.


Now, since I hold the power that he once held,

and possess both the bed and the wife who had birthed his children

—all of whose children would have been his if he hadn’t been unlucky,

but fate fell upon his head—so, I will fight for his cause

as if he were my own father, and will never stop in

searching for the killer who shed the blood of Laius.


To all those who do not do as I say, I pray to the gods

to send you no fruit of the earth nor fruit of the womb,

but to have you suffer the fate of all the others,

or an even worse fate.


But to all the loyal townspeople who accept this,

and who are allies to justice,

may the gods be kindly to you always.






“See anything green?” it gibbered. “See anything green?”




And the triple tone continues on, from line to line, relentlessly. The linguistic structure of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος is, in a word, unspeakable. With every line, line by implacably symbolic line, the character Oedipus is further sunk. The implacability of Fate encoded everywhere in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος is breathtaking to experience.




“He just couldn't stop. . . . He just couldn't stop.”


The character Oedipus is not only caught in the implacable structure of the Sophoclean words. He is caught also in repetitive behavior.


Example :



ἔπεμψα γὰρ Κρέοντος εἰπόντος διπλοῦς

πομπούς: πάλαι δὲ μὴ παρῶν θαυμάζεται. (288–9)


On Creon’s idea I sent two men to get him [Tiresias];

I wonder why it’s taking so long.





λυπεῖ τί πράσσει: τοῦ γὰρ εἰκότος πέρα

ἄπεστι πλείω τοῦ καθήκοντος χρόνου. (74–5)


I’m feeling uneasy. [Creon’s] taking

more than a reasonable amount of time to come back.


Let us recall that the appearance of Creon brings nothing auspicious into the life of Oedipus. Far from it. So the repetition of Oedipus’ wonderment (200 lines apart) is a Sophoclean perversity : the echo at (288–9) includes a signal that more incredible news is about to come along the pipeline.




“Oh God! Oh Man! Oh God! Oh Man! . . .”


Remember what we just read?


πάλαι δὲ μὴ παρῶν θαυμάζεται. (289)—“I wonder why it’s taking so long.”


There, πάλαι means “long, but not too long a time”.


Now the very next line!



καὶ μὴν τά γ᾽ ἄλλα κωφὰ καὶ παλαί᾽ ἔπη. (290)


“And, well, all the rest is vague and old rumour.”


This time, παλαί᾽ means “old, as in long ago, as in ancient”.


In the snap of a finger Sophocles transforms the word παλαί out of the context of the extreme conversational—“Long not to be here makes me wonder” (289)—and into the portentous solemnity of Fate knocking at the door.




Burn After Reading : “Oh my f***!”


OEDIPUS : ἔστιν δὲ ποῖον τοὔπος; / What is the message? (89) (What is the message (of the Oracle?))


1. τοὔπος


looks and sounds like

2. τόπος


(place, i.e., where Oedipus murdered his father unawares)

(τόπος appears at 1127.)


So : OEDIPUS : ἔστιν δὲ ποῖον τοὔπος; / What is the place?


Character Oedipus’ Unconscious has alarm bells ringing.


Let’s add a word from ten lines later :


OEDIPUS : τίς ὁ τρόπος τῆς ξυμφορᾶς; / What is the manner of the trouble? (99)


3. τρόπος


(mode, Situation—but first and foremost : direction, way, way of life, a personal style)

looks and sounds like

τοὔπος + τόπος


So : OEDIPUS : τίς ὁ τρόπος τῆς ξυμφορᾶς; / What is the myself of the trouble?


Encoded into line 99, amid the unremittingly psychedelic language of the play, is the following echoing trinity :


τοὔπος + τόπος + τρόπος


towpos + topos + tropos

τοὔπος + τόπος + τρόπος = τ(ρ)ο(ὔ)πος


(1) Fate + (2) murder spot + (3) myself = the DNA of Oedipus, encoded in the word τρόπος (99).


τρόπος : the place where three ways meet : Me, Myself, and I. Father, Son, Husband.






ὀρθῶσαι (39)

ἀνόρθωσον (46 / 51)

ὀρθὸν (50, 88, 505, 528, 695, 853, 1219)

ὄρθ᾽ (419, 905)

ὀρθῆς (528)

ὀρθῶς (550, 1448)

ὀρθοίη (829)

ὀρθοῖς (1385)


What do all these words mean? To be straight; to set straight. Think there may be a reason in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος for this particular repetition? Considering (1) Oedipus walks with a limp. (2) Reason is uprightness and confidence. (3) Sophocles employs Reason to reveal the Unreasonable. (4) etc.




“Who are you?” (Apocalypse Now, 2:30:02)


(1) Art is a mirror.

(2) Reason is self-important.

(3) Reason looks into a mirror and says, “See? I’m important.”

(4) Nihilist Sophocles in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος uses Reason to reveal the Unreasonable.

(5) Inhumans misinterpret Οἰδίπους Τύραννος because Reason doesn’t see itself as Unreasonable.

(6) Civilization celebrates Οἰδίπους Τύραννος as one of its great artistic works.

(7) Nihilist Sophocles has the last laugh.

(8) Does he have to? The sooner we understand Οἰδίπους Τύραννος, the sooner we cure ourselves of ourselves.




A ludicrous situation of Act 1 : The character Oedipus is led astray by idiots around him . . . towards the truth! He is shoved by good-intentioned imbeciles into terrible self-recognition. (cf. The body snatchers bring lovely-scented flowers.) Oedipus becomes the official sickness so the imbeciles can say, “Ah, so that’s fine. Compared to him, I’m not sick at all.”


Echoes of The Master. Freddy cannot be cured by the false, so is himself considered false, and banished (ἀνδρηλατοῦντας, 100).




Ethical thought is a product of the Reason, but not exclusively so. Ethical thought is a response from the human. Responsible Ethics is a promised outcome of a first-rate narrative, since Art is founded in humanism, in the human, in the originary faculty for creation, the faculty for creating aspects of humanness.


Ethics, like anything else, is also used by evil. Compounding the problem of finding Ethics is its shared DNA with Reason.


Ethics is an effort of humanness.


The first-rate narrative embodies Ethics and Humanness. The promised outcome is Responsibility.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Oedipus welcomes Tiresias, the blind seer, into his royal presence (300). What happens? Oedipus reduces before our eyes like a linguistic Incredible Shrinking Man. At first, Oedipus’ language is dense and complex as usual. By the end of his opening speech to the prophet, Oedipus belts out a banal platitude more appropriate to the limited B&W mind of the Priest. Did the ancient Greek artists employ the concept of the cringeworthy? Apparently yes.



Φοῖβος γάρ, εἴ τι μὴ κλύεις τῶν ἀγγέλων,

πέμψασιν ἡμῖν ἀντέπεμψεν . . .



Phoebus—if you didn’t get the message—

sent us an answer when we sent to him . . .


(1) The repetition of “send” embodies the Sophoclean universe larger than Oedipus himself. He is caught in something no one living will ever understand. The repetition of “send”—a “stutter technique” appearing in diverse ways throughout the play—just here conveys that Oedipus is trapped. / The stutter technique is equivalent to a portentous musical cue. // Recall (e.g.) the Chorus’ ἄνακτ᾽ ἄνακτι (284) (Master Master).

(2) Is there comedy in addressing a famed Visionary (who sees all) with : In case you didn’t get the message . . .

(3) It is Oedipus himself who refuses to get the message. The truth he searches for has sounded out clearly by now, and repeatedly (e.g., line 3; line 100; Οἰδίπους = μίασμα = χώρας). So the stutter technique just here is also double-speak.

(4) The majestic vibe of Oedipus has now snapped. The presence of Tiresias, the man who knows, is a radiation that reduces. The king has reduced to a wilful boy.


Oedipus is now as helpless as a character trying to talk themselves through an embarrassing situation in American Psycho.




The first words of Tiresias, the man who knows, exemplify Sophoclean Nihilism :



φεῦ φεῦ


This is an expression of “Ah! Ah!” or “WTF” or some sadly exasperated utterance. Thing is, Tiresias is not bemoaning Oedipus (whose Fate Tiresias knows), nor is he bemoaning the plight of the city. Tiresias is bemoaning himself for being inconvenienced by the Situation!


Tiresias, knowing all, couldn’t give a f***. He’d rather stay out of it. He’s an outsider, like the Three Witches of Macbeth—or an outlaw, like a Bonnie and Clyde. He’s content to live apart. Let everyone else pretend they’re somebody. Leave him out of it.




“Funny how? How am I funny?”



φεῦ φεῦ, φρονεῖν ὡς δεινὸν ἔνθα μὴ τέλη

λύῃ φρονοῦντι (315–6)


Ah, well. Having knowledge is terrible when

knowledge brings no benefit.


At face value this sounds like another banal platitude. The thought may apply just as much to Oedipus as to Tiresias. If Οἰδίπους Τύραννος were a “feel-good” narrative, perhaps Tiresias might indeed be bemoaning Oedipus’ fate just here : “Ah, well! How awful for Oedipus to see himself! Poor, poor boy!”


This is not the case. What we have just heard is a wry Sophoclean trick. Tiresias expresses no banal platitude—Tiresias is no imbecile. This is a marvel of the triple tone. Tiresias speaks solely of himself, but the audience, exemplars of self-important Reason, hear his words in another way, thereby giving Tiresias’ nihilism the (mistaken) vibe of a stately, responsible pronouncement. The character Oedipus is a surrogate for the audience; so the audience wants Oedipus to be not only self-important, but important (Oppenheimer, 43). Sophocles, aware of this involuntary response in the Reasonable audience, jeers at Reason for its self-importance. Tiresias jeers at everyone around him.


“Here’s a solemn line for you,” says Sophocles. “Oops. Joke’s on you, suckers.”




Double, double. Next, Tiresias and Oedipus express Sophoclean double-speak for eight lines (316–323). Each man may just as well be speaking each other’s self-reflections. But let’s move on.





ὁρῶ γὰρ οὐδὲ σοὶ τὸ σὸν φώνημ᾽ ἰὸν

πρὸς καιρόν



I see you do not speak correctly.


(1) A blind man uses the expression see in this way? At face value, is this usage a perverse absurdity? (2) It is cleverly aggressive, as the man does “see” and know, and he’s warning Oedipus of this. (3) It is a statement of mockery. Tiresias expresses that Oedipus is much blinder than himself. (4) For the audience, it’s a mystical and creepy and unearthly Situation to absorb, a wondrous vibe. (5) Oedipus, whom the Priest extolled as the brainiac who solved the riddle of the Sphinx without help (35–8), and who has already wowed the audience with his continuous rhetorical magnificence, is now ridiculed right where he seemed impervious to criticism. Criticizing Oedipus’ words is equivalent to putting a stake through his heart. (6) Is this line a wry authorial perversion? Is Sophocles comically ridiculing the play’s output up to this point? / “Things could be a whole lot better.” / “It was a pretty good story, don't you think? Made me laugh to beat the band. Parts, anyway.”




Now reduced in scope, and facing a recalcitrant Tiresias, the character Oedipus becomes extreme conversational.




τί δ᾽ ἔστιν;—a terse, testy, unsophisticated “What now?” (319)


τί φής;—a terse, testy “What are you saying?” (330)


πρὸς θεῶν —“toward Gods” literally, but an untranslatable interjection of exasperation such as “Dear God” or “Good God” or “What the hell?” (326) The colloquial vibe of this interjection is entirely out of key with the majesty of Oedipus’ linguistic vibe up to now.




Oedipus to Tiresias : . . . εἰ καὶ μὴ βλέπεις . . . / “. . . though you cannot see . . .” (302)


That’s a laugh, coming from the most clueless man in Thebes!


Double-speak—That’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy!




Tiresias shows up and a portentous word appears in the mouth of Oedipus—ὁδόν (311).


ὁδόν means “way”, “road”, as in (e.g.) πολλὰς δ᾽ ὁδοὺς ἐλθόντα φροντίδος πλάνοις (67)—“I’ve wandered down many roads of thought”.


This brings to mind the most significant τόπος in the play : τριπλαῖς ἁμαξιτοῖς—the place where three roads meet. ὁδόν in the mouth of Oedipus is his Unconscious expressing the primal scene. Tiresias jars this out of Oedipus. Think of it. Tiresias knows the truth of Oedipus; therefore, Oedipus faces himself when he looks at Tiresias. Faces himself—in more than one way. Soon Oedipus will be physically blind, too. The stuttering technique is also visual.


ὁδόν is not the only significant linguistic recurrence early in the scene.


OEDIPUS : τί δ᾽ ἔστιν; ὡς ἄθυμος εἰσελήλυθας. “What is it? You come downhearted.” (319)


This expression is (at least) double-speak. The thought applies also to the reduced-in-scope Oedipus himself, both as present description and as prophecy.  


Hold on—The way in which the thought is conveyed here is noteworthy.


The linguistic manner in which Sophocles conveys the vibe of “reduced-in-scope” is equivalent to a consummate usage of, say, storyteller Nolan’s Following the Ball.


The use of εἰσελήλυθας (“to come”) recalls the heroic use of ἐλήλυθα at the high rhetorical peak of Oedipus declaring his name to us at the start of the play (7). There, its position within the glorious, high-energy linguistic exhibition allowed ἐλήλυθα to echo with ἀλαλητῷ, a war-cry or shout of victory. Here, the shout of victory is dwindling to little-boy weakness.


How does first-rate Sophocles convey “dwindling” in the language of the character Oedipus?


Sophocles uses a five-syllable word for “to come”. εἰσελήλυθας. We know by now that five-syllable words in Sophocles are relatively rare and therefore prominently significant in one way or another.


What is significant about εἰσελήλυθας? These five syllables outdo Oedipus’ four-syllable ἐλήλυθα. But how triumphant those four syllables sounded then! And how offhandedly the five-syllabled conjugation now rolls off the reduced Oedipus’ tongue!


At the start, Oedipus appeared to the audience with glorious pomp and circumstance. Now, Tiresias’ sonic fanfare outblasts Oedipus’, yet—and here comes some perverse humor—Tiresias doesn’t enter with a king’s majesty, but shuffles up careless, ornery, unimpressed and intractable. Five-syllabled Tiresias is stronger that four-syllabled Oedipus, but Tiresias doesn’t care.  


εἰσελήλυθας is a perverse echo of the earlier ἐλήλυθα—like an upbeat musical theme reorchestrated as a dark motif.





μὴ πρὸς θεῶν φρονῶν γ᾽ ἀποστραφῇς, ἐπεὶ

πάντες σε προσκυνοῦμεν οἵδ᾽ ἱκτήριοι.



My goodness! If you know, don’t turn back, since

all here show you reverence with olive-branches.




Oedipus sounds like the imbecilic Priest to whom he showed no respect. (The Priest even uses a related word—ἱκετεύομέν / suppliants (41).) The pressure of the knowledge hidden inside Tiresias—all that Oedipus is unable to face just yet—has hammered Oedipus down in size to the weak, clueless, sententious Priest of Zeus.


This is the moment in the movie when characters lower their eyes in shame at the ignominy of their hero.




Extreme conversational.


TIRESIAS : πάντες γὰρ οὐ φρονεῖτ᾽ / “You’re all imbeciles.” (328)




Trickeration Tremendum.


TIRESIAS : οὐ γὰρ ἂν πύθοιό μου. “You cannot learn from me.” (333)


Interesting use of the word πύθοιό (to learn), considering its sonic echo of Πυθικὰ (70)—Pythian Oracle.


In using the word πύθοιό, Tiresias jeers at Oedipus with Sophoclean flair. Indirectly Tiresias relates : “The Oracle can tell you.” Or : “The Oracle has told you.”—i.e., Οἰδίπους = μίασμα = χώρας.


The vibe of “You cannot learn from me” is : “Go ask the oracle, moron.”


This jeering vibe recalls Anton : “Not in the sense that you mean.”


This dexterous language also recalls the subtlety of “That is rather slippery of you, Agent Starling.”




Tiresias’ jeering words touch the secret of Oedipus’ DNA, which activates the word-repetition technique :



οὐκ, ὦ κακῶν κάκιστε


No? O ruinous ruiner! [or whatever repetition of that pejorative sort]


The word-repetition is a foundational structure of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος. It embodies the Fate that hems in the characters.


The language of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος is equivalent to a quicksand in which the character Oedipus is implacably sinking.




“When they start raving on and on . . .”



οὐκ, ὦ κακῶν κάκιστε, καὶ γὰρ ἂν πέτρου

φύσιν σύ γ᾽ ὀργάνειας



No? O ruinous ruiner,

you would bring forth anger from a stone!


The past is well and truly alive. Tiresias has activated in Oedipus the very hair-trigger anger that long ago resulted in the unwitting murder of his father. Oedipus is caught not only in words but also in repetitive behavior.





κἀγὼ τὸν ἐκτρέποντα, τὸν τροχηλάτην,

παίω δι᾽ ὀργῆς



I was pushed out of the way by the driver,

and I struck him in anger.


Tiresias angers Oedipus, and the word bounces back and forth between the two :


ὀργάνειας (335)

ὀργὴν (337)

ὀργίζοιτ᾽ (339)

ὀργῆς (344)

ὀργῆς (345)


Tiresias enjoys returning Oedipus to the anger that marked him. Indirectly he is conveying to the hapless king: “You want some truth? Here it is. See? Look at yourself. This is who you are. This explains what you did. Hear me? No. See yourself? No. Moron.”


Is there something absurd about a supreme ruler arguing with a citizen? Especially after Oedipus just threatened the townspeople with harsh punishment for insubordination? Conflict makes for good drama, yes, but this particular conflict also allows Sophocles to ridicule his protagonist. For all his threats, Oedipus cannot coerce even one citizen to cooperate. Compounding the comedy : (2) Tiresias is the one citizen who should, in theory, cooperate—because he knows the truth. (3) Oedipus stubbornly urges Tiresias to reveal news that, in the end, will ruin Oedipus!




The perverse double-speak goes on and on. In the short term we have to stop somewhere.



καὶ μὴν παρήσω γ᾽ οὐδέν, ὡς ὀργῆς ἔχω,

ἅπερ ξυνίημ᾽



I am so angry that I will not leave unsaid what I know!


Oh really?

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OEDIPUS : ἴσθι γὰρ / “Know that . . .” (346)


The blindman presumes to educate the visionary. The character Oedipus is no longer cringeworthy. That was a passing vibe. With every line—with every second of running time—life is worsening for Oedipus. He is about to look ridiculous, and will be dismissed by Tiresias with one word—“Really?” ἄληθες (350)—similar to Marion saying “Right” to the knife-wielding guy in Raiders.




Oedipus stands before Tiresias as if before a mirror. What does Oedipus say into the mirror?



ἴσθι γὰρ δοκῶν ἐμοὶ

καὶ ξυμφυτεῦσαι τοὔργον εἰργάσθαι θ᾽, ὅσον

μὴ χερσὶ καίνων:



Know that I think you worked

with the others to contrive this deed, and do it,

even if the killing was not by your hand.


Oedipus speaks out the truth loud and clear, but does not hear it. His Unconscious speaks through him. It says : “I was involved in the murder!” Crucial mind-altering double-speak, yet Oedipus passes it by, unable to measure the multi-resonance in his words. He does not hear the sound of Fate.


The sovereign holding sway inside Oedipus refuses to allow the truth a complete install in his mind. Just as a skywatcher views an eclipse through a solar viewer, so his mind strains out spectra before he comes to hear himself. When he speaks, he misunderstands himself. How can he not? He’s already lost information required to understand. What he hears of the transmission is a fragment that he makes provisional sense of. All this fragmentariness is part of a life that Tiresias would shun, except that he has been dragged into the Situation.


even if the killing was not by your hand—At this precise moment Oedipus is living in denial. Then, emboldened by anger, he steps further :



εἰ δ᾽ ἐτύγχανες βλέπων,

καὶ τοὔργον ἂν σοῦ τοῦτ᾽, ἔφην εἶναι μόνου.



Know that I think you worked

with the others to contrive this deed, and do it,

even if the killing was not by your hand.

If you had eyesight,

I’d say you did this deed alone.


How strange is this?


Oedipus looks into the mirror, and confesses all.


Is this not creepy? Possibly the most creepy?


Theory : Οἰδίπους Τύραννος is the weirdest Situation in all of Literature—for ever and ever.



I’d say you did this deed alone.





ἄληθες (350)—Oh yeah? Really? Whatever. Tell it to the hand.


*    *    *


The stuttering technique is the sound of an implacable Fate that incorporates everyone. Examples :


PRIEST : φθίνουσα . . . φθίνουσα . . .  (25–6)

OEDIPUS : γνωτὰ κοὐκ ἄγνωτά (58) / φήμην φέρων (87)

CREON : φόνῳ φόνον (100)

CHORUS : ἄλλον δ᾽ ἂν ἄλλῳ (175) / ἄνακτ᾽ ἄνακτι (284)


Tiresias has his first moment of “word stutter”. Sophocles engineers this with a Genius Move.



ὡς ὄντι γῆς τῆσδ᾽ ἀνοσίῳ μιάστορι.



You are this land’s sickly plague!


While the two words communicate a similar meaning, they look and sound very different from one another. It’s a mocking mimicry of the monumental motif of Fate knocking at the door. Tiresias, outside of things (as far as that goes), is making light of human fate. (Also of Sophocles?)


*    *    *


Facing a problem thoughtfully is a healthful conveyance of energy. Barreling through a Situation unthinkingly (Inhumanly) contaminates and dam(n)s.


Once Oedipus was painstaking in thought and speech. Faced with Tiresias, Oedipus devolves. He loses his composure and barrels on hysterically, rushing headlong without judgment, blindly. His responses to Tiresias are petulant and stubborn, not considered and curious and concernful. Oedipus rejects every statement Tiresias makes, as if playing a child’s game. Panic grows in Oedipus as he struggles to stop installation of the truth.


Lines 345–379. Weak king Oedipus presents himself as ever-more childish and hysterical. He issues to Tiresias empty threats and dumb insults, while ignoring all details of Tiresias’ words. He is emotional and irrational. He acts like a child. In this way he comes to look ridiculous. All this leads to a climactic two lines—a Sophoclean Genius Move. Then he snaps out of it.




“Why don’t you tell me the rest of it?”

“Just to see if there was an accident . . . on Mulholland Drive.”


OEDIPUS : ποῖον λόγον; λέγ᾽ αὖθις, ὡς μᾶλλον μάθω. (359)


What did you say? Tell me again, so I understand more.


λόγον; λέγ᾽


Ominous deployment of the stuttering technique.




OEDIPUS : καὶ ποῦ τοῦτο φεύξεσθαι δοκεῖς; (355)—“How do you expect to escape this?”





The centrepiece of the line. Situation scary now. Oedipus asks himself : How do you expect to escape this?




Sonic echoes of the past appear like demons in a nightmare.


OEDIPUS : ὦ τέκνα, Κάδμου τοῦ πάλαι νέα τροφή (1)

TIRESIAS : πέφευγα: τἀληθὲς γὰρ ἰσχῦον τρέφω. (356)

τροφή (1) / τρέφω (356)

same word : nurture, etc.


Tiresias mocks the dwindling Oedipus and his lost majesty with the echo of τροφή (1) / τρέφω (356).


Marvellously, Oedipus parrots the Situation :


OEDIPUS : πρὸς τοῦ διδαχθείς; οὐ γὰρ ἔκ γε τῆς τέχνης. (357)


τέκνα (1) / τέχνης (357)




OEDIPUS : μιᾶς τρέφει πρὸς νυκτός, ὥστε μήτ᾽ ἐμὲ (374)


τροφή (1) / τρέφω (356) / τρέφει (374). Same word.


Oedipus is sinking ever-deeper into the quicksand.


PRIEST : οὐδ᾽ ἐκδιδαχθείς (38)

OEDIPUS : πρὸς τοῦ διδαχθείς (357)


Let’s move on to a Sophoclean Genius Move.




Oedipus parrots Tiresias using the stuttering technique.


You! You!Like birdsong :


TIRESIAS : πρὸς σοῦ: σὺ γάρ μ᾽ ἄκοντα προυτρέψω λέγειν. (358)

OEDIPUS : ἀλλ᾽ ἔστι, πλὴν σοί: σοὶ δὲ τοῦτ᾽ οὐκ ἔστ᾽ ἐπεὶ (370)


Sophocles conveys via this musical pattern that Tiresias’ message is sinking into Oedipus. It is as if Oedipus is hypnotized in the presence of Tiresias. (Just as the audience is hypnotized by Οἰδίπους Τύραννος.) Prevailing vibes include : wondrous and magical and terrifying.




TIRESIAS : εἴπω τι δῆτα κἄλλ᾽, ἵν᾽ ὀργίζῃ πλέον; (364)—“Shall I say something else, to add to your anger?”


Tirelessly Tiresias mocks Oedipus’ angersimilar to Chief Phillips dragging Willard toward the spear.




Sophoclean Genius Move.



ἀλλ᾽ ἔστι, πλὴν σοί: σοὶ δὲ τοῦτ᾽ οὐκ ἔστ᾽ ἐπεὶ

τυφλὸς τά τ᾽ ὦτα τόν τε νοῦν τά τ᾽ ὄμματ᾽ εἶ.


“But there is [strength], just not for you! You don’t have that, since you’re blind in your ears, in your mind, and in your eyes!”


The childishness of the thought is embodied in the simplicity of the language. 370–1 use no word over two syllables. The Joycean Oedipus has become the ridiculous Oedipus. He belts out an idiotic schoolyard insult in a simple schoolyard cadence.




OEDIPUS : μιᾶς τρέφει πρὸς νυκτός (374)—“Endless night keeps you”


Ominous insult to Tiresias. Both self-description and self-fulfilling prophecy. Implacability of Fate, line by line, on and on . . .




Tiresias raises the spectre of incest (366–7) yet Oedipus ignores it entirely. But when Creon’s name appears, Oedipus immediately slows down. He says :


OEDIPUS : Κρέοντος ἢ σοῦ ταῦτα τἀξευρήματα; (378)


Creon’s? Or inventions of your own?


Creon’s name returns Oedipus back to the world of people, where Oedipus has operated so successfully over the years. Sophocles deploys a five-syllable word—τἀξευρήματα—to convey the return of Oedipus to “himself”.






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The five syllables of τἀξευρήματα


OEDIPUS : Κρέοντος ἢ σοῦ ταῦτα τἀξευρήματα; (378)


Creon’s? Or inventions of your own?




Quick preface : the self-referential.


OEDIPUS : οὕτως ἀναιδῶς ἐξεκίνησας τόδε τὸ ῥῆμα; (354–5)—“So shamelessly you send out this ῥῆμα?”


ῥῆμα = word, saying, phrase. Also verse, line—(cf. Aristophanes, Frogs, 1379).


With the use of ῥῆμα, Oedipus is “almosting” where he is (the Sophoclean universe). It is another clue that passes him by.




Face value definition : τἀξευρήματα = inventions (Liddell & Scott)








ρήμα = phrase

ευ = well

ατα = homophone of  Ἄτη = Fate.

ματα evokes μαθ, to learn, to know.

τἀξ- evokes both ταχυ-, swift, and τέκ-, to create


OEDIPUS :  . . . τἀξευρήματα.


OEDIPUS : to swiftly . . . create . . . good words . . . to learn . . . Fate.


*   *   *


The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


BOHR : “You can lift the rock without being ready for the snake that’s revealed.” (10)


ἐν παντὶ γάρ τοι σκορπίος φρουρεῖ λίθῳ.


A scorpion awaits under every stone.


Sophocles, Fragment 37.

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


KITTY : “Somehow I graduated to housewife.” (37)


In Oppenheimer, “our 70s movie”, Emily Blunt’s amusing Southern Belle accent, appearing out of nowhere, recalls


Jane Fonda : “Do you have any identification?”


Klute (1971), 19:30.

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The narcotized body of Howard Hughes was flown out of the continental United States to Paradise Island. It is a sliver of land (of white-sand beaches and palm trees) four miles long and two-thirds of a mile wide in tropical turquoise waters, just off the northeast coast of Nassau amid the Bahamian archipelago, about 160 miles off the Florida mainland. From November 1970 to February 1972, Hughes was installed at the heart of an enclave of Mafia and CIA forces. Paradise Island was another casino milieu, this one with a serene tropical sheen. Still, as at Vegas, the surface machinations of the day-to-day casino operations false-fronted various international shenanigans. Funded by a casino, a cloak-and-dagger security firm will maintain its power base there. Secret alliances reaching back to Washington, D.C., and joining all parts of the globe, radiated out from a Hughsian hub of operations at small Paradise Island.


ISLAND FORTRESS. The press inquired of Fred F. Schock, the executive vice president of Resorts International, if Howard Hughes was a guest at the Britannia Beach Hotel. Schock responded: “We don’t talk about people. We don’t confirm or deny any questions about people whether they are guests or not.”[1]


Hughes was there. He was renting four suites on the ninth floor—925, 926, 927, 928—what the hotel called the Presidential Suites. Each was composed of an L-shaped foyer, a large living room, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The carpets of the Presidential suites were green, the curtains and upholstery white and green. Each suite cost Hughes $250 a day.


Hughes’s movie projector and sound-amplifying equipment were set up in his bedroom. He eventually had six televisions in his room.[2] He lay in the motorized hospital bed his engineers had designed for him after the XF-11 crash in 1946.[3] Hughes could make thirty adjustments to his position by pressing a series of push-buttons.[4]


Hughes maintained a road of paper towels that joined his bed with the bathroom, allowing him passage back and forth. Each morning—or whenever Hughes awoke—new towels were laid. On either side of the road threatened a no man’s land of dust and germs.[5]


The only exercise Hughes enjoyed were the number of steps between bed and Barcalounger and bathroom. Sometimes he refused even this minor exertion—one of his aides would carry him to-and-fro.[6]


Hughes’ staff operations comprised two rooms in Hughes’ own suite, 925. There was an inner office for the inner aides and an outer office for the secondary aides. A locked security partition divided off these two offices. The two-room buffer blocked Hughes from the suite’s front door.


In the inner office (the communications center), telephone jacks and television lines were installed. A Telecopier maintained constant communications with Las Vegas and Los Angeles.[7] In the outer office, television monitors relayed the simulcast from surveillance cameras located both inside and outside the hotel. Other electronic surveillance systems were installed on the ninth floor as well.[8]


Inside the Hughes suite, a circular staircase led up to the hotel’s roof, where Hughes’ team had set up communications equipment. On the roof was a small forest of antennas, including a 45-foot television mast.[9] A line-of-sight radio beam (built by Hughes technicians) connected Hughes to an ATT antenna on the mainland. Hughes’ operatives could direct-dial any number in the United States.[10] Telephone scramblers prevented eavesdropping.[11] An armed guard with German shepherd patrolled the roof.[12]


The security measures protecting Hughes on Paradise Island were elaborate, an upgrade from the Desert Inn. According to the New York Times, “a heavy, metal-covered green door” divided Hughes’ part of the ninth floor from the rest of the floor.[13] An Intertel guard stood by the green door 24 hours a day. A second guard stood at the door to Hughes’ suite. Doors to the fire escape were sealed from the inside. According to Chuck Waldron and Verl Frehner, only a “very limited number of keys were made for these doors.”[14] Inside Hughes’ suite, the various doors were secured with elaborate bolt-locks.[15] At night, all of Hughes’ eleven ninth-floor balconies were illuminated with floodlights.[16]


No outsiders could get to see Hughes, nor could anyone get Hughes out. No less than four locked doors came between Howard Hughes and the hotel elevator.


The media telephoned the hotel and asked to speak with the Presidential Suites on the ninth floor. The hotel operator would tirelessly respond: “I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to put any calls up there, except for 928.” Hughes’ chief of security James O. Golden sometimes answered the phone in 928.[17]




During his stay at the Britannia Beach Hotel, Hughes was adamant that his preferred water, Poland Water, was to be shipped in regularly in quart-sized bottles from the American Northeast. Poland Spring Natural Spring Water originated from springs deep in the Maine woods. Hughes had been drinking Poland Water almost exclusively since the mid-1950s. To minimize hassle, aide Chuck Waldron refilled empty Poland Water bottles with “locally provided water”.[18]




Evidently Hughes was told that he had been relocated out of the United States for his own good, in order to elude a number of legal hassles. Eleven months into his exile, a memo emerged from his hotel hideaway: “He wants to know from Chester [Davis, Hughes’ chief legal counsel] how long this IRS thing will keep us out of the country.”[19]



[1] Arnold, “Bahamians Hoping Hughes, “the Man Upstairs,” Will Pay the Bills”, 53.

[2] Hack, Hughes, 347.

[3] “The Case of the Invisible Billionaire”, 78.

[4] “Fabled Mystery Man Howard Hughes”, 43.

[5] “Penthouse Interview: James Phelan”, 127.

[6] Hack, Hughes, 346.

[7] Frehner, Hughes and Me, 38.

[8] Frehner, Hughes and Me, 21.

[9] “Rashomon, Starring Howard Hughes”, Time, January 24, 1972.

[10] Turner, “Hughes Shows Up in Nicaragua Hotel After Secret Trip”, 39; “Shootout at the Hughes Corral”, Time, December 21, 1970.

[11] “Rashomon, Starring Howard Hughes”, Time, January 24, 1972.

[12] Turner, “Hughes Shows Up in Nicaragua Hotel After Secret Trip”, 39; Hack, Hughes, 342; Turner, “Garbage and Grand Jury Figure in Howard Hughes Controversy”, 41.

[13] Arnold, “Bahamians Hoping Hughes, “the Man Upstairs,” Will Pay the Bills”, 53; “The Case of the Invisible Billionaire”, 78.

[14] Frehner, Hughes and Me, 6.

[15] Frehner, Hughes and Me, 6.

[16] “Rashomon, Starring Howard Hughes”, Time, January 24, 1972.

[17] Arnold, “Bahamians Hoping Hughes, “the Man Upstairs,” Will Pay the Bills”, 53.

[18] Frehner, Hughes and Me, 102–3; “The Hughes Legacy: Scramble For The Billions”, Time, April 19, 1976; “The Secret Life of Howard Hughes”, Time, December 13, 1976; Higham, Howard Hughes, 263.

[19] Memo dated November 10, 1971. See Anderson, “Hughes Fled Country to Escape IRS”, 17.





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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


And oftentimes, to winne us to our harme,

The Instruments of Darknesse tell us Truths,

Winne us with honest Trifles, to betray us

In deepest consequence.

Macbeth, 1.3.135–9


BOHR : “Heisenberg sought me out in Copenhagen. It was chilling—my old student, working for the Nazis. He told me things to draw me out . . .” (100–1)


OPPENHEIMER : “You can lift the rock without being ready for the snake that’s revealed.” (102)


looke like the innocent flower,

But be the Serpent under it.

Macbeth, 1.5.76–7

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon




I tense up as the STAMPING SOUND gets LOUDER and LOUDER . . . (107)


I hear the sound of FEET STAMPING (150)

Now I can hear the sound of FEET STAMPING . . . (187)





Knocking within



Whence is that knocking?

How is’t with me, when every noyse appalls me?


 [. . . ]



My Hands are of your colour; but I shame

To weare a Heart so white.


Knocking within


I hear a knocking at the South entry :

Retyre we to our Chamber :

A little Water cleares us of this deed.

How easie is it, then! Your Constancie

Hath left you unattended.


Knocking within


Harke! more knocking.

Get on your Night-Gowne, lest occasion call us,

And show us to be Watchers : be not lost

So poorely in your thoughts.



To know my deed,

’twere best not know my selfe.


Knocking within


Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!







Here’s a knocking indeede! . . . (Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’th’ name of Beelzebub? . . . (Knock.) Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other Devil’s Name? . . . (Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? . . . (Knock.) Knock, knock! Never at quiet : What are you? (Knock.)






From my boyish days I had always felt a great perplexity on one point in Macbeth. It was this:—The knocking at the gate which succeeds to the murder of Duncan produced to my feelings an effect for which I never could account. The effect was that it reflected back upon the murderer a peculiar awfulness and a depth of solemnity; yet, however obstinately I endeavoured with my understanding to comprehend this, for many years I never could see why it should produce such an effect. . . .”


Thomas De Quincey, “On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth” (1823)






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Art is infinite in signification, but its technics are a closed system. We should look to find inter-relationships between the parts. Why? A work of art is an engine of revelation, and the more we understand an engine, the better we’re able to coax it beyond its rating.


Theory : Shakespeare’s Macbeth has the most wondrous technics in literature since Sophocles, Οἰδίπους Τύραννος. The language of Macbeth has a remarkable unity. When a word is repeated in Macbeth, it has likely been engineered-in that way. Look for thematic reasons in word frequency.


Three Witches

Faire is foule, and foule is faire




So foule and faire a day I have not seene.




Good Sir, why doe you start, and seeme to feare

Things that doe sound so faire?




Our feares in Banquo sticke deep,

And in his Royaltie of Nature reignes that

Which would be fear’d.



In this last example, the Witches are echoing in the mouth of Macbeth, suggesting his entrapment in a Fate beyond his vision. / At beginning and end is “fear”—this variation suggests the implacable. / The witches bookend Macbeth’s line, as if their vibe inhabits every iota of his mind.  


Macbeth has recently murdered King Duncan with a dagger. Coincidence, then, that Macbeth speaks such a phrase as “sticke deep”? Indeed, the association of still-living Banquo with murdered King Duncan is not complete just yet in Macbeth’s mind :


Our feares in Banquo sticke deep,

And in his Royaltie of nature reignes that

Which would be fear’d.


May we read this as a Sophoclean dream condensation?


(1) Macbeth is equating his victim-to-be with his victim-now-dead. Past and future meet in the present.

(2a) The royal theme recalls the Three Witches’ prophecy to Banquo : “Thou shalt [be]get Kings, though thou be none.” (1.3.70)

(2b) This is why Macbeth conspires Banquo’s murder. The royal metaphor which at face value describes Banquo’s temperament conveys Macbeth’s own mindset as well—his murderous rejection of Banquo’s “Royall hope” (as the soliloquy soon reveals).

(3) King Macbeth is describing his own sociopathic self (unconsciously).

(4) Macbeth is displacing his own iniquity onto Banquo.

(5) Macbeth fears that Banquo is so well-put-together that he might undo Macbeth in some manner;—with power comes paranoia (cf. Sophocles, 380–9; Seneca, Oedipus, 6–7).




This is the fourteenth appearance of this word—of twenty-six—in Macbeth.






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Macbeth : Remarkable Sophoclean Dream Condensation in twelve words


4.1.164–6. While Macbeth plans the murder of Macduff, he learns that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth bemoans the fact—“Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploitsthen speaks the following :


The flighty purpose never is o’ertooke

Unlesse the deed go with it.




1. Birds in Macbeth


King Duncan sees the castle where he is to die that night :


                                            no jutty, frieze,

Buttress, nor Coigne of Vantage, but this Bird

Hath made his pendent Bed, and procreant Cradle.



Lady Macbeth creeps herself out while awaiting news of Duncan’s murder :


Harke! Peace! It was the Owle that shriek’d



Soon after, she explains herself to her husband :


I heard the Owle scream, and the Crickets cry :



An Old Man recounts a sync between nature and murderous Macbeth :


‘Tis unnaturall,

Even like the deed that’s done. On Tuesday last,

A Falcon, towering in her pride of place,

Was by a Mousing Owle hawk’d at, and kill’d.



Later, Lennox relates similar creepy phenomena :


The obscure Bird clamor’d the live-long Night.



An aroused Macbeth hits rhetorical heights as he awaits the murder of Banquo :


Light thickens,

and the Crow makes Wing toth’ Rookie Wood.



Macbeth responds freaked-out to the ghost of Banquo :


If Charnell-houses, and our Graves must send

Those that we bury, backe, our Monuments

Shall be the Mawes of Kytes.



(i.e., birds of prey vomiting up their corpse-food. cf. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 1021–1025; Seneca, Thyestes, 8–11.)


Lady Macduff criticizes her husband for abandoning his family :


He wants the naturall touch. For the poore Wren

(The most diminutive of Birds) will fight,

Her young ones in her Nest, against the Owle.



Lady Macduff speaks with her son in the moments before they’re murdered, and the unsuspecting mother and child remark :


“Poore Bird, thou’dst never Feare the Net, nor Lime,/The Pitfall, nor the Gin.”

“Why should I, Mother? Poore Birds they are not set for.”



At news of his family’s murder, Macduff scorns Macbeth :


All my pretty ones?

Did you say All? O Hell-Kite! All?



2. Deed = Murder


There are eighteen instances of the word “deed” in Macbeth. How many of these instances relate to Macbeth’s evil? Eighteen.



First, as I am his Kinsman and his Subject,

Strong both against the Deed . . .

And Pitty, like a naked New-Born Babe,

Striding the blast, or Heaven’s Cherubim, hors’d

Upon the sightlesse Couriers of the Ayre,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the winde.




Whiles I threat, he lives:

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.



Lady Macbeth

Alack, I am afraid they have awak’d,

And ‘tis not done. The attempt, and not the deed,

Confounds us.




I have done the deed.



Lady Macbeth

These deeds must not be thought

After these wayes; so, it will make us mad.



Lady Macbeth

A little Water cleares us of this deed.




To know my deed, ‘twere best not know myselfe.



Old Man

‘Tis unnaturall,

Even like the deed that’s done.




Is’t known who did this more than bloody deed?




Malcolm and Donalbain, the king’s two Sonnes,

Are stolen away and fled; which puts upon them

Suspicion of the deed.




                                         ere the bat hath flowne

His Cloister’d flight, ere to black Hecate’s summons

The shard-borne Beetle, with his drowsie hums,

Hath rung Night’s yawning Peal,

There shall be done a deed of dreadfull note.




Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest Chuck,

Till thou applaud the deed.




We are yet but young in deed.



Macbeth : “What is’t you do?” Three Witches : “A deed without a name.” (4.1.49–50)



No boasting like a Foole;

This deed I’ll do, before this purpose coole.




Foule whisp’rings are abroad: unnaturall deeds

Do breed unnaturall troubles



3. Purpose


In Macbeth are six instances of the word “purpose”. How many of these instances relate to murder and evil? Four.  


Lady Macbeth

                                             make thick my blood,

Stop up the accesse and passage to Remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of Nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace betweene

The effect, and it!



Lady Macbeth

Infirme of purpose!




The flighty purpose never is o’ertooke

Unlesse the deed go with it.




No boasting like a Foole;

This deed I’ll do, before this purpose coole.



Of the six instances of “purpose” in Macbeth, the other two relate to the unfortunate Duncan :


Lady Macbeth : “And when goes hence?” Macbeth : “Tomorrow, as he purposes.” (1.5.69–70)



Where’s the Thane of Cawdor?

We coursed him at the heeles, and had a purpose

To be his Purveyor: but he rides well





The flighty purpose never is o’ertooke

Unlesse the deed go with it.


Theory will get you only so far. (18)





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In Οἰδίπους Τύραννος Sophocles uses the stuttering technique as a way to fix his characters in a Fate beyond their understanding. In Macbeth, Shakespeare engineers-in many references to acting and writing and theatrical performance, all to create his own version of the Sophoclean vibe of Entrapment in Fate.


cf. James Joyce, Ulysses, 18. During Penelope’s sleepy nighttime monologue, she says : “O Jamesy let me up out of this”


Οἰδίπους Τύραννος Macbeth Ulysses  cinema. This is the royal road of Sophoclean technics. This Situation involves as much a way of seeing as an empirical technical structure. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


The following are some examples of Sophoclean self-reference in Macbeth.




acting (the art of performance and the pronouncing of poetry) :


choke their art // you imperfect speakers // prophesying with accents terrible // And chastise with the valour of my tongue // champion me to the utterance // Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends // O, I could play the woman with mine eyes And braggart with my tongue // Thou comest to use thy tongue; thy story quickly // memorise another Golgotha // There’s no art To find the mind’s construction in the face // make our faces vizards to our hearts, Disguising what they are // We will perform in measure, time and place // Thou play’dst most foully for’t // In this slumbery agitation, besides her walking and other actual performances, what, at any time, have you heard her say?


writing :


So well thy words become thee as thy wounds // lapp’d in proof, Confronted him with self-comparisons, Point against point // With terrible numbers // Too terrible for the ear // Sweno, the Norways’ king, craves composition // By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes // your pains Are register’d where every day I turn The leaf to read them // yell’d out Like syllable of dolour // all unfortunate souls That trace him in his line // Strange things I have in head, that will to hand; Which must be acted ere they may be scann’d // Raze out the written troubles of the brain // Your face, my thane, is as a book where men May read strange matters


stage performance :


Two truths are told, As happy prologues to the swelling act Of the imperial theme // To the selfsame tune and words // New honours come upon him, Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould But with the aid of use // Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man’s act, Threaten his bloody stage // But, gentle heavens, Cut short all intermission // tell me, if your art Can tell so much // And even now, To crown my thoughts with acts // Confusion now hath made his masterpiece // But no more sights!




In the following speech Macbeth spews out cliched stage convention. It is intentional cheesy dialogue, its extravagance completely out of place with the Situation and meant to generate a cringeworthy air, and suddenly the character Macbeth looks ridiculous.


What man dare, I dare:

Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,

The arm’d rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger . . .


Such extravagant bravado (with beasts used as examples) is found in (e.g.) Seneca, Oedipus, 87–102; Julius Caesar, 5.1.41–2; Coriolanus, 1.8.4–5.


In the following example, the play alludes to the bear tied up outside the Globe Theatre. With this metaphor Shakespeare brings the audience back to themselves; the storyteller bleeds the narrative world of Macbeth in with the “real world” of the audience inhabiting its χώρας


They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,

But, bear-like, I must fight the course.


—just as Oedipus addresses the audience at the outset of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος; just as All the President’s Men uses actual deep-state locations; just as the titular character locks eyes with the audience at the outset of Oppenheimer.




In the following two examples, Shakespeare, through Macbeth’s mouth, alludes to himself—to Julius Caesar, one of his most celebrated works :


and, under him, My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said, Mark Antony’s was by Caesar.


Amid the self-references, Shakespeare mocks stage convention, and, therefore, himself :


Why should I play the Roman fool, and die

On mine own sword?



Breaking the fourth wall :


I pray you, remember the porter.




To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow

Creepes in this petty pace from day to day

To the last Syllable of Recorded time :

And all our Yesterdayes have lighted Fooles

The way to dusty death. Out, out, briefe Candle!

Life’s but a walking Shadow, a poore Player

That struts and frets his hour upon the Stage

And then is heard no more. It is a Tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.




The Situation requires Thinking—but the mind is always already on to the next thing. One must slow down; otherwise, there is no Thinking, only the Inhuman.


Thinking—e.g., thinking about a work of art—breaks through the Inhuman to the humanness inside; therefore to Ethics and Responsibility.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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How many children had Lady Macbeth?


Scholars have pondered since time immemorial the Situation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s children. Perhaps the apparition of the “Bloody Childe” who delivers the second prophecy to Macbeth (4.1.88–92) is the ghost of their birth child, who died, somehow and some time, after being nursed by its mother (1.7.61–2). This beyond-the-grave dig at (father) Macbeth—the trickeration of the second prophecy contributes to his undoing—recalls a ghostly moment near the end of Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander—the dead man delivering a hard knock to the young Alexander. The spitefulness of the dead recalls also an early moment of Wild Strawberries—echoed in (e.g.) Last Temptation of Christ : a dead hand reaching out for, and clutching threateningly, the living.


The dead put a curse on the living; and (apparently) are happy to keep doing it. Breaking out of the prison of the past involves effortful thinking, of which Art is a helpful encourager and guide. A first-rate narrative is a royal road toward the humanity living at the heart. But to reach for this humanity requires an ongoing effort equivalent to one’s own private Apocalypse Now. Possible, but not easy, and an effort of no short duration; and knowledge has a price—more than one—as the foundational story of Europe warns us : Historia von D. Johann Fausten (1587); and later, Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).


Apparition 2 / Bloody Childe

Be bloody, bold, & resolute. Laugh to scorne

The power of man : For none of woman borne

Shall harme Macbeth!



The spiteful curse from dead child to damned father. Macbeth doesn’t recognize the child as his own because, say, the child died while still a baby, and now we see him as he would have looked, if he had aged in our world; but he is dead, and so is bloody; and the obscurity of both blood and age lead Macbeth to leave his dead child unrecognized. How bleak—the father gazes into the eyes of his lost son, and doesn’t know it; while the son, like a demon out of The Exorcist, lets bloody life have it between the eyes. How many children had Lady Macbeth? One demon child.



Sophoclean Density in Macbeth


Banquo appeals respectfully to the Three Witches :


If you can look into the Seedes of Time,

And say which Graine will grow, and which will not,

Speake then to me



Much later, Macbeth conspires with two murderers to kill Banquo :


Within this houre, at most,

I will advise you where to plant yourselves





You see, her eyes are open.



Ay, but their sense is shut.




The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Malcolm on Macbeth :


I grant him (1) Bloody,

(2) Luxurious, (3) Avaricious, (4) False, (5) Deceitfull,

(6) Sudden, (7) Malicious, smacking of every sinne

That has a name.



Groves on Oppenheimer :


“You’re a (1) dilettante, (2) womanizer, (3) suspected Communist . . . (4) Unstable, (5) theatrical, (6) egotistical, (7) neurotic.”






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


STRAUSS : “As Chairman of the AEC I have access to your security file. I’ve read it.” (12)


CAITHNESS : “Who knowes if Donalbain be with his brother?” LENNOX : “For certaine, Sir, he is not: I have a File Of all the gentry.” (5.2.9–10)

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Sophoclean Dream Condensation



Canst thou not Minister (a) to a mind diseas’d,

Plucke (b) from the Memory a rooted (c) Sorrow,

Raze out the written (d) troubles of the Braine,

And with some sweet Oblivious Antidote

Cleanse (e) the stuff’d bosom (f) of that perilous stuffe (g)

Which weighes upon the heart (h) ?



(a) Minister


Lady Macbeth, conjuring Powers Beyond (i.e. the Three Witches) :


Come to my Woman’s Breasts,

And take my Milke for Gall, you murdering Ministers



Malcolm, determined to root out all co-conspirators (ha!) :


Producing forth the cruel ministers

Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen



(b) pluck


I would, while it was smiling in my Face,

Have pluck’d my Nipple from his Boneless Gummes,

And dashed the Braines out, had I so sworne

As you have done to this.



What Hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine Eyes.



(c) rooted


Banquo, to the Three Witches :


If you can looke into the Seedes of Time



King Duncan, to Banquo :


I have begun to plant thee, and will labour

To make thee full of growing.



Macbeth, planning Banquo’s death with the two murderers :


I will advise you where to plant yourselves



Macbeth, contemplating Banquo’s corpse :


There the growne Serpent lies



The Three Witches and the third prophecy :


Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be, until

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him.



(d) written


cf. the self-referential in Macbeth


(e) cleanse


Will all great Neptune’s Ocean wash this blood

Cleane from my Hand?



A little water cleares us of this deed



What, will these hands ne’er be cleane?



(f) bosom


Duncan begins the thread :


No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive

Our bosom interest: Go pronounce his present death,

And with his former Title greet Macbeth.



Banquo, pronouncing his indissoluble tie to friend Macbeth, who later has him killed :


                  I . . . still keepe

My bosom franchis’d and Allegiance cleare



Macbeth, to the two murderers :


And I will put that business in your bosoms,

Whose execution takes your Enemy off



Malcolm, mourning his father’s death in the following :


Let us seeke out some desolate shade, & there

Weepe our sad bosoms empty.



The Doctor and Gentlewoman look on astonished at Lady Macbeth’s madness :



What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charg’d.



I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the

dignity of the whole body.



(g) stuff


“Faire is foule, and foule is faire” / “Our feares in Banquo sticke deepe” / (“stuffed bosom”) / “Is this a Dagger which I see before me, The Handle toward my Hand?” / “Give me the Daggers. The sleeping and the dead, Are but as Pictures. ’Tis the Eye of Childhood, That feares a painted Devil.” / “O proper stuffe! This is the very painting of your feare. This is the Ayre-drawn Dagger which you said Led you to Duncan.” /  “stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuffe”


(h) heart


If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid Image doth unfixe my Hair,

And make my seated Heart knock at my ribbes,

Against the use of Nature?



False Face must hide what the false Heart doth know.



O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor Heart

cannot conceive nor name thee!





Canst thou not Minister to a mind diseas’d,

Plucke from the Memory a rooted Sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the Braine,

And with some sweet Oblivious Antidote

Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuffe

Which weighes upon the heart?




And, an echo of Lady Macbeth in the lilt of “Oblivious Antidote” :


Here's the smell of the blood still: all the

perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little

hand. Oh, oh, oh!






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Deterioration : Macbeth


Throughout the play the character Macbeth uses Reason to try to elude the Destiny implicated with the Three Witches. In Act 5, a very Sophoclean Situation, Reason itself implacably pummels Macbeth to death.


The “restoration of Reason” is as traumatic in Macbeth as in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος.


In Act 5 of Macbeth, one reasonable revelation follows another, each clearly explaining a riddling prophecy of the Witches, until the head of Macbeth is stuck on a pike.


Reason punishes both Macbeth and Oedipus—apparently, just because. What worsens things is that Reason is a feebility within Unreason.




In meaning-making we work with what we have. The play Macbeth exists in a debased form (textual issues) and a schizophrenic form (did Shakespeare write all of it?)—just as the Macbeths themselves suffer deterioration and schizophrenia, and the Witches evoke a Situation beyond understanding. Decline and lacunae and mystery : The form suits the content, the content the form.




Art not without Ambition, but without

The illnesse should attend it


You mean : You must be ill—as reasonable clinicians would have it—to realize Macbeth?




Reason and Madness


In 5.1, Lady Macbeth’s mad scene, the Doctor, emblem of Reason, of “truth”, begins confident in himself. What follows? The Reasonable Doctor faces the Unreasonable, measures it, and, by scene’s end, he freaks out.


This disease is beyond my practice. (62)


Reason, at a loss to calculate the Situation :


My minde she has mated, and amaz’d my sight. (82)




The Doctor acknowledges to himself at the end of Being There, “I understand. I understand”, aware that he alone recognizes the Situation. Most likely he won’t breathe a word of what he’s seen—because who would believe him?


So here at 5.1. in Macbeth.


Both Doctor and Gentlewoman witness the maddened nighttime movements of Lady Macbeth. The witnesses promise never to reveal to any living soul what they have seen and heard.


But they’re not alone. The audience is present, a voyeur of heavy intimate moments of human behavior.



I have two nights watched with you, but can perceive

no truth in your report. When was it she last walked?



watched with you—a sync up with the audience.





Since his Majesty went into the Field, I have seene

her rise from her bed, throw her Night-Gown upon

her, unlocke her Closet, take forth paper, folde it,

write upon’t, read it, afterwards Seale it, and again

return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleepe.


Is Shakespeare acknowledging the encoding of secrets in the writing of his work?  




“I have no idea the contents of this remarkable potion. What’s in it?”





In 5.1 the play contracts to quiet hand-wringing.


Doctor : “Looke how she rubbes her hands.”


(a) the hand of murder—Macbeth : “Is this a Dagger which I see before me, The Handle toward my hand?” (b) the hand of authority—Duncan : “Give me your hand.” (c) the hand the acts—First Witch : “I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.”


The first literary treatment of mental illness in Western literature is Sophocles, Ajax. The great Greek warrior believes himself to be killing his chief commanders, Agamemnon and Menelaus, as well as killing many other army generals, when in fact he is slaughtering cattle. Ajax then takes prisoners—which are, in fact, oxen and sheep—back to his tent, where he binds them up and tortures them, thinking himself punishing living men. (ll. 50-65) Generally speaking, Ajax has a war-fever, PTSD.


In 5.1 of Macbeth, Shakespeare presents to the Spectator a character, Lady Macbeth, caught in psychological patterns of circular thinking, of fixation, of repetition compulsions, of schizophrenia; all of which reach back to the humanism of personal guilt.


PTSD in Sophocles, OCD in Shakespeare



What is it she does now? Looke how she rubbes her hands.



It is an accustom’d action with her, to seeme thus

washing her hands: I have knowne her continue in

this a quarter of an houre.


Lady Macbeth

Yet here’s a spot.


(“spot” = yes, Kind Reader, χώρας. As in, Οἰδίπους = μίασμα = χώρας.)


The audience glimpses a privileged nighttime vision : a character haunted with the past, sickened to destruction with the past.




(a) Out, damned spot! out, I say! (b) One: Two: Why

then ’tis time to do’t. (c) Hell is murky! (d) Fie, my

lord, fie! a Soldier, and afeard? What need we

feare who knowes it, when none can call our power to

account? (e) Yet who would have thought the olde man

to have had so much blood in him.


(a) panicked

(b) child’s sing-song

(c) a dark dispatch from the worst place

(d) strength

(e) weak




(a) The Thane of Fife had a wife: (b) where is she now?

(c) What, will these hands ne’er be cleane? (d) No more o’

that, my Lord, no more o’ that: (e) you marre all with

this starting.


(a) child’s sing-song

(b) bitterly cruel

(c) panicked

(d) strength

(e) strength (cont’d)—while addressing Macbeth (“starting” = to be discomposed)

(e) Sophoclean Weirdness—while addressing herself (“starting” = this sleep activity)




The play Macbeth includes as a structural component the self-conscious enterprise of speaking. Does one speak well, or does one speak not so well? Each of Shakespeare’s characters in Macbeth has their own degree of facility with language. Sometimes a character rises above, or drops beneath, this facility, according to the inspiration of the times.


How perverse, that Macbeth attains his clearest, most efficient eloquence—at rock bottom?


To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow

Creepes in this petty pace from day to day

To the last Syllable of Recorded time :

And all our Yesterdayes have lighted Fooles

The way to dusty death. Out, out, briefe Candle!

Life’s but a walking Shadow, a poore Player

That struts and frets his hour upon the Stage

And then is heard no more. It is a Tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.


Lucky you, you're here for rock bottom . . . you absolute horror of a human being.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Demosthenes, “For the People of Megalopolis”


We must always seek to work out what is right, then do it, and at the same time, gain profit from it.


I say what ruins everything—and this indeed is the origin of all evil—is the unwillingness to simply do what’s right.  




δεῖ δὲ σκοπεῖν μὲν καὶ πράττειν ἀεὶ τὰ δίκαια, συμπαρατηρεῖν δ᾽ ὅπως ἅμα καὶ συμφέροντ᾽ ἔσται ταῦτα. (16.10)


καὶ τοῦτο λυμαινόμενον πάνθ᾽ εὑρήσομεν, καὶ ταύτην ἀρχὴν οὖσαν πάντων τῶν κακῶν, τὸ μὴ 'θέλειν τὰ δίκαια πράττειν ἁπλῶς. (16.24)






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Ten minutes : The Conversation (1974)


Athena Nike, Goddess of Victory, pillared and central, reaching up out of the frame umbilical with the ὀμφᾰλός (Ulysses, I, III).


Humans incorporated unsuspecting in a Situation of Fate. Those who do, and do, and do. Just as in the opening of Macbeth.


Here is an anywhere, a χώρᾱς, a peaceful multicultural city—“Paris” / San Francisco—in the long-shadowed afternoon. Nature and concrete. A policeman safeguards the people. A gentleman leans in and begins a colloquy with the cop, who seems a cooperative power.


Is this what the birds hear in Hitchcock, when the fire breaks out? A hypnotism heard from afar. Applause from the unseen arises—seemingly sparked by the smack of the Mime’s hands.


Long-lensed surveillance. Documentary footage of people. Whom will we follow? A home movie shot on the fly.


Is the wandering Mime choosing a Protagonist for us?


Harry, standing in a space previously empty, is approached by the mime in black. Bergman Doubling : Visual expression of haunting. Protagonist flees from the pursuit of the haunting.


What does Harry hate? Attention. Now he’s the star of a movie?


The Mime, Spirit of Performance (in military coat), has chosen our Protagonist.


Long-distance mic as a weapon that takes in rather than projects out, as if Oswald put JFK in his sights to steal mouth-secrets to bring down things. In b.g., a proud American flag. Thoughts of The Sniper (1952).


Criticality : Triad of significance in the frame—Ann, Mark, and Harry, with foregrounded saxophone overlapping Harry. The entire narrative is required to process this moment. (4:13–4:19)


Sound warps. Might the projector be malfunctioning? The audience doesn’t know—sync up. Outside the cinema : seventeen weeks until Nixon resignation.


Nikon and Kodak : a commemorative moment.


“All I want is a nice fat recording.” / (“I simply don’t have time for confrontations.”) / The Inhuman. / Body snatched from the start. / Reckoning with the narrative is an attempt to wrest back the human at the heart.


At Geary and Stockton is TWA, Hughes’ ghost. Mannequins evoke the mime—also Rainbow Fashions.


Ascending the staircase of German Expressionism. A monastic spot, modeled with angular light and shadow. (Chinatown : “Hello.”) Frame organisation conveys interiority of character.


What does Harry lock up so scrupulously inside his apartment? Nothing of worldly value. What is locked up is his personal space.

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American Gigolo (1980)


Opening credit sequence of twelve shots, to 3:26.


The car. Julian’s black Mercedes expresses visually the ordered comfortable world he maintains for himself. The filmic presentation of the car presents Julian as subsumed within the car.


First, the car’s extremities are visualised in CU. (1) front right wheel. (2) right rear fender and lights. Shots 1–2 are the playing field (so to speak) of the Situation.


Only then do we see the driver of the Mercedes. (3) pan down from wide on Pacific coastline to Julian subsumed within his smoothly-operating vehicle. So smooth is the presentation that John Bailey’s camera continues to lower on Julian and cranes right smoothly as the car passes the camera by—a consummate cinematographic execution equivalent with the protagonist’s cool, Gatsby-sharp style.


In (3), the car is calling the shots (so to speak), even as the moving camera is technically commanding, virtuoso in operation. Julian drives away from the expert camera as if expressing, “Adios! Places to go and people to see.”


Ominous shot 11 inverts this relationship between Julian and camera.


In the car. Julian Kaye is an expression of the patterns that confine him. His Self is an exhalation of his culture. Julian’s car is his close-fitting couture “full metal jacket”. This abstract concept is conveyed clearly in American Gigolo through the director’s fusion of cinematography and editing.


The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,

And these are of them.


Movement in the twelve shots of the opening credit sequence is finely organized. The camera is continuously moving until (7). Amid Julian’s busy life, a ten-second rest period of stationary stability : we watch Julian at work. The stability conveys the considered and controlled nature of the character Julian Kaye. Then, still in (7), pan right (more stability) as Julian returns to his car, where he fastens down its folding roof (more stability). Both Julian and camera move in (7) but the vibe throughout remains consummate stability.


(9) The car. Recapitulation of shots 1–3. Patterns.


(9) The car. The frame-filling car hood. Recalling shots 1–2, Julian’s presence is conveyed via the metonymy of the Mercedes. The car expresses his (apparently) fine and robust life Situation. Pan to Julian subsumed inside, the traveller on the road, a post-70s Travis moving confidently—at this time.


(11) Establishing on the Pacific coast, the camera moving at a skew along PCH—then, surprise! Julian’s Mercedes enters frame-right and dwindles in size before our eyes as it progresses to frame-left. In this shot is a disjunct between technics and character Julian Kaye. The camera is now calling the shots (so to speak) and is moving at its own rate of speed disjointed from the speed of the Mercedes. Julian’s well-composed life is now presented within a larger world. This is the only shot in the opening credit sequence in which camera and car are not synced up at a corresponding rate of speed. (11) conveys through cinematographic technics a foreshadowing of Fate.


(12) Swooping crane downward—like lightning’s trajectory from God—presenting disordered angles until camera and car sync up for perfect stability. At this point, at the beginning, like the character Οἰδίπους, Julian Kaye is the master of his universe. Track left as Julian enters the house, but stable Ozu-elegant frame symmetry is restored as Julian descends the interior stairs and enters into his story, oh so confidently. He didn’t notice the ominous disjunct of (11).





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Why 2.39 for The Accidental Tourist (1988)?


The Accidental Tourist is a love story involving a man who has temporarily lost the ability to show love.


Panavision widescreen was chosen for this story. Why? Obviously the film format best suited for romance is the 1930s Academy format. In the tight geometrical Situation of 1.33, the spatial limitation of the film frame forces characters to exist in close proximity with one another. 1.33 is perfectly suited to convey intimacy between characters. Since 1.33 was out of style by 1988, the next best format for a story of romance would have been 1:66 or 1:85. In 1988, the film format that seemed most unsuitable for a romantic film was 2.39.


So why the Panavision choice by director Kasdan and cinematographer John Bailey?


1a. In the widescreen of Accidental Tourist, when two romantically-entangled characters occupy the same film frame, the negative space between the characters expresses visually a fundamental theme of the written story : emotional distance.


1b. Two shots that convey (1a) well are : Macon and Sarah sitting at the kitchen table while discussing divorce (5:46). Both principals occupy the same frame, but negative space conspicuously divides the two of them, visualizing their emotional divide. The same technique is used when Macon and Sarah speak at his sister’s wedding (1:18:07).  


2a. Director Kasdan is jeering (lovingly?) at the Lucas–Spielberg sensibility that overwhelmed Hollywood after Jaws and Star Wars. In the Kasdan/Bailey The Big Chill (1983), one character jingles the Raiders theme (33:42) in an amusingly conspicuous self-referential moment equivalent to Peter Sellers citing the character Spartacus at the beginning of Kubrick’s Lolita. Joking self-references return in Accidental Tourist—the pushy airplane passenger is named “Lucas”, and the airplane itself (visible at the director credit) streaks through the sky like an X-wing fighter. Why these self-references? In Accidental Tourist, Kasdan is conveying that this widescreen film is for adults.


2b. Using the widescreen format in Accidental Tourist allows Kasdan to remind Hollywood that human drama is as colossal a Situation as the shenanigans of Raiders or Star Wars. Obvious, and yet—It is a perversely subversive move : Kasdan makes humanity the measure of the cinema screen.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


The ominous Nichols door (e.g., 1:06:00).


NICHOLS. Dr Oppenheimer, the fact that your security clearance is proving difficult to obtain is not my fault. It’s yours.


In (apparently) well over fifty percent of his shots in the film, the character Oppenheimer occupies the frame with a window, most often behind him.


Here, Nichols occupies the frame with a window.


The window is obscured with closed slat blinds reinforced with black privacy tape.


Contrast. The character Oppenheimer’s windows are most often open to light.


Here, the obscured window at Nichols’ back is set in an interior door.


A window-door with slats and privacy tape recalls the bureaucratic labyrinth of Room 2022.


Sophoclean dream density!


Here, a wall-mounted pencil sharpener is prominent beside the door—officious little pencil-pusher (cf. King’s Shining).


How dangerous is a sharp pencil?


Nichols’ shadow on the wall—(Doppelgänger)—An emissary of the Dark?


A threatening vibe of closing off the forward way.


(This obscure character can send things off the rails.)


What about the obscure door behind him? What of the mystery of that forward way? That obscurity, that darkness?


Who wants to go through that door?


NICHOLS. (D)r Oppenheimer, the (f)act that your (s)ecurity (c)learance is (p)roving (d)ifficult to obtain is (n)ot (m)y (f)ault. It’s (y)ours.


d / voiced alveolar stop

f / voiceless labiodental fricative

s / voiceless alveolar sibilant

c / voiceless velar stop

p / voiceless bilabial plosive

d / voiced alveolar plosive

m / voiced bilabial nasal

n / voiced alveolar nasal

y / glide consonant


The variety of powerful phonetics (adding liveliness to the conflict) leads to the creepily insinuous yielding glide.


Two very strong lines of simple language. First-rate writing is like anything else : right order yields positive results.


for example


or art thou but

A (d)agger of the (m)ind, a (f)alse (c)reation,

(P)roceeding from the heat-oppressed (b)rain?


d / voiced alveolar plosive

m / voiced bilabial nasal

f / voiceless labiodental fricative

c / voiceless velar stop

p / voiceless bilabial plosive

b / voiced bilabial plosive


The variety of powerful phonetics leads to the ultra-powerful plosives.





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The Magic Circle : The Accidental Tourist (1988)


The taxi lurched to a halt. A sudden flash of sunlight hit the windshield, and spangles flew across the glass. The spangles were old water spots, or maybe the marking of leaves, but for a moment Macon thought they were something else. They were so bright and festive, for a moment he thought they were confetti.

—Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist


The film opens with a shot of a bed. Nature-shadows streaming in through a window cover the bedspread, a haze of leaves and branches resembling a mutable scatter of “confetti”. Onto the bed a stoic Macon Leary places his suitcase. Where is he going? To the final shot of the film.


A taxi. A “flash of sunlight” fades away from the windshield, revealing Macon sitting in the back seat. The overlay of mutable light recalls the “spangles” of the film’s first shot—“the marking of leaves”.


Why the magic circle?


No longer a bed, where one lies inactive. Now, a vehicle in which one moves. No longer a suitcase placed over nature-glimmerings, as if to blot it all out. Macon is now fixed within nature again; his life-elements have slotted into positive place. He has worked through a Situation. No longer stoppage; now, open space.


(a) At 4:28, Sarah Leary sits at her kitchen table amid a prominence of empty ladder-backed chairsa Situation suggestive of loneliness, the missing, and the lost. The ladder-backed chair design evokes the past—where Sarah is stuck, and from which she is about to attempt an escape. Indeed, an empty chair is an opportunity, too : an invitation to “join in with . . .” The empty chairs suggest both the life that’s lost and also the life that’s passing her by, all the other places where chairs are filled with sociable people. Just now, though, Sarah is surrounded by emptiness.


Here, Kasdan and Bailey convey visually a line from Hitchcock : “Sometimes Saturday night has a lonely sound.”


(b) At 21:48, Muriel Pritchett telephones Macon, who is sitting on his couch beside Edward the dog. Standing prominent behind Macon, framing his head tightly, is an empty chair. This symbolism, prepared for by the Sarah scene, recalls everything “at his back” (i.e., the past) and everything Muriel is attempting to supplant and change. But at this time Macon is resistant. The chair is a visual cue that Sarah his estranged wife and their dead son still loom large inside his thoughts.


Here, Kasdan and Bailey convey visually what is on the character’s mind, and commanding his spirit.


(c) In between beginning and end, Muriel trains Edward the dog—who symbolizes the past that bites, a past which grows ever more dangerous unless it’s trained into calmness, and walks in step with its owner.


This concept brings to mind a resonance from PTA : “Now it’s got a leash on it. I take it for a walk. And that’s where we’re at with it now. It stays on command.”


The magic circle joining beginning and end emphasizes contrast of character, the journey of change—but also unity, the unity of events that make up a life. The concept of unity, of working through to a practical coordination of parts, suggests hope. Hope is encoded even in the lugubrious beginning of the film.


What is that suitcase at the beginning? It holds items reflective of the self : it is an emblem of memory. Now, at the end, Macon has left his suitcase (of memories) behind, and embraces the present.


All of this, conveyed through John Bailey’s cinematographic technics.


And the final CU of a smile. “Bright and festive.” A smile for a good woman, Muriel Pritchett—rich inside. Macon Leary lives again.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Triple Tone almost considered in 1859


“We have in this play [Οἰδίπους Τύραννος] also the most remarkable specimen of what is commonly called the irony of Sophocles, which may be explained as consisting partly in giving words or sentences a designedly ambiguous import. . . . We find veins of irony more or less in all the plays of our poet. . . . But the present play is tinged with it almost from beginning to end . . .”


And so . . . ?


But that’s all that said about that.


Rev. F. H. M. Blaydes. “Oedipus Tyrannus”, in Sophocles, with English Notes (London : Whittaker and Co, 1859), 9.




A generation before Sophocles, Aeschylus wrote a (now lost) play entitled Oedipus.


Remember Gus Van Sant’s faithful remake of Psycho (1998), and its disastrous critical response? Van Sant was one generation from Hitchcock.


Now consider in that light Sophocles’ world-celebrated version of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος.


What imbecilic academia needs to do is stop reading Sophocles as if he were Aeschylus. Put broadly, it’s as if approaching Oppenheimer as if it were, say, an episode of Masterpiece Theater : it’s just wrong from the start—spectacularly so, bro.




Mental illness in Macbeth : Bipolarity


The ancient Greek playwrights knew well that contrast makes for good drama. The stronger the contrast, the greater the drama.


So in 3.2 of Macbeth. Here, the character of Macbeth follows a sheer trajectory up from morbidly depressed to emphatically giddy—in an eyeblink.


Speaking with his wife, Macbeth is downcast in spirit :


Duncan is in his grave;

After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well;

Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,

Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,

Can touch him further.


Lady Macbeth responds to her husband’s depression :


Come on;

Gentle my lord, sleek o’er your rugged looks;

Be bright and jovial among your guests to-night.


But Macbeth continues to grumble depressedly. So Lady Macbeth tries again :


You must leave this.


Now comes Macbeth’s most anguished utterance of the scene—


O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!


After this expression of rock bottom, things immediately look up. Husband and wife turn to the subject of Banquo’s impending murder (and the murder of Banquo’s young son), and Macbeth instantly brightens :


There’s comfort yet; they are assailable;

Then be thou jocund


“be thou jocund”?! This Macbeth counsels, after having spent half the scene in despair and dolour?!


The character Macbeth leaps from rock bottom to a giddy height in a bipolar eyeblink. Separating depth and height is one single line (from Lady Macbeth, 3.2.43).


Macbeth’s giddiness intensifies. His excitement over the impending double-murder whips him into a wondrous concentration of poetry.


Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,

Till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night,

Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;

And with thy bloody and invisible hand

Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond

Which keeps me pale.


Colossal contrast—“dearest chuck”, a light-hearted endearment spoken in the midst of a conversation about the murder of a child!


(tender eye : hmm. . . . Moving on.)


 Now Macbeth hits a triumphant verbal height :


                                      Light thickens; and the crow

Makes wing to the rooky wood:


But then he pushes it :


Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;

While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.


The rhyming couplet is equivalent to an NFL player celebrating a touchdown in the end zone—and getting flagged for it. Indeed, Macbeth, excitedly self-congratulatory, admits he’s showing off :


Thou marvell’st at my words: but hold thee still


Hold still, indeed, because Macbeth now reaches a triumphant height, an extremely conclusive ending, such as one hears in, say, Beethoven :


Thou marvell’st at my words: but hold thee still;

Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.


(Evil strengthens itself with more evil.)


So, prithee, go with me.


And the scene ends. And the audience holds still, and goes with him.



Which keeps me pale.


This is apparently an example of the extreme conversational, appearing in a manner equivalent to Seneca, Medea, 12.


The downshift in momentum here (a bleak self-reflection) segues expertly into the next section :




Sophoclean Dream Density


                                     Light thickens; and the crow

Makes wing to the rooky wood



Some syncs :


Banquo uses nature imagery to speak of his (doomed) future :


If you can look into the seeds of time,

And say which grain will grow and which will not,

Speak then to me



Duncan hears about the castle where he is to die that night :


no jutty, frieze,

Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird

Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle:



Apocalyptic nature imagery :


Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.



An earlier post presented ten examples of a bird/death correspondence throughout Macbeth. Example :


The flighty purpose never is o’ertooke

Unlesse the deed go with it.





Sophoclean Dream Density


                                         Light thickens; and the crow

Makes wing to the rooky wood


1. Light


Let not light see my black and deep desires



2. thickens


Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood . . .



Come, thick night,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell



3. crow


 “crow” + (n) = crown.


and the crow Makes wing to the rooky wood = “and I, the king, conspire would-be deaths!”


4. rooky


Note the double vowels of “oo”. As in, say :  


What bloody man is that?



In Macbeth, Shakespeare is more than aware of such linguistic Situations. To put it mildly.


(btw, the word “bloody” appears fifteen times in Macbeth.)


5. wing


The soon-to-be-murdered King Duncan says to Macbeth :


thou art so far before

That swiftest wing of recompense is slow

To overtake thee.



Interesting use of “overtake” here? It is our old friend Prolepsis.


The word “wing” appears one more time in the play—in the mouth of the Witches.


Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing





The literary device of Prolepsis was first mentioned in this thread with respect to Nolan’s Dunkirk, at the time when storyteller Nolan was “still a total mystery” to Scrooby. Now Scrooby has been “born again hard” with the Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon.


Scrooby proclaims as final recapitulation that storyteller Nolan is the pre-eminent living storyteller on the planet earth at this time. The world itself has voted.


Good news that he is founded in the story principles of Shakespeare and Sophocles.




The technics of Shakespeare’s Macbeth are a closed system equivalent to the intricate complexity of a space shuttle engine. The play’s linguistic integration from beginning to end is breathtaking in its scale (2477 lines), and previously matched only by the Οἰδίπους Τύραννος (1530 lines) of Sophocles. The wondrous technics of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος are conditioned by the flexibility of ancient Greek to provide many opportunities for linguistic genius. Now Shakespeare demonstrates for us that Sophoclean technics are possible even in our ponderous tongue. Macbeth is a colossal triumph for the English language.


Which brings us to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.


 . . . Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousendsthee . . .






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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(M)acbeth 1.2


Shakespeare controls pace and produces sonic effects through the use of—and the withholding of—the letter “m” in the lines of the Sergeant.


Doubtful it stood;

As two spent swi(mm)ers, that do cling together

And choke their art. The (m)erciless (M)acdonwald--

Worthy to be a rebel, for to that

The (m)ultiplying villanies of nature

Do swar(m) upon hi(m)—fro(m) the western isles

Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;

And fortune, on his da(m)ned quarrel s(m)iling,

Show’d like a rebel’s whore: but all’s too weak:

For brave (M)acbeth—well he deserves that na(m)e—

Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,

Which s(m)oked with bloody execution,

Like valour’s (m)inion, carved out his passage

Till he faced the slave;

Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to hi(m),

Till he unsea(m)’d hi(m) fro(m) the nave to the chaps,

And fix’d his head upon our battle(m)ents.


Note the climactic surplus of the letter “m” in the last three lines above.


As whence the sun ’gins his reflection

Shipwrecking stor(m)s and direful thunders break,

So fro(m) that spring whence co(m)fort see(m)’d to co(m)e

Disco(m)fort swells. (M)ark, king of Scotland, (m)ark:

No sooner justice had with valour ar(m)’d

Co(m)pell’d these skipping kerns to trust their heels,

But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage,

With furbish’d ar(m)s, and new supplies of (m)en,

Began a fresh assault.


Note the density of the letter “m” as the tale turns perilous. Then, as the Sergeant’s tale continues, the saturation of the “m” dissipates, a sonic cue of the uncertainty of things.



As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.

If I say sooth, I (m)ust report they were

As cannons overcharged with double cracks, so they

Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe:

Except they (m)eant to bathe in reeking wounds,

Or (m)e(m)orise another Golgotha,

I cannot tell.

But I a(m) faint, (m)y gashes cry for help.


The Sergeant reaches his triumphant height of rhetoric—“Or memorise another Golgotha”—then immediately loses all energy (as if falling off that hill). The final two instances of the letter “m” occupy weak syllables of the iambic line—a Genius Move.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Macbeth returns from his bloody deed of royal murder entirely discomposed in mind. Already seeing things before the murder—the “fatal vision” of the (CGI-like) dagger—now, after the murder, Macbeth has seemingly gone bananas.



These deeds must not be thought

After these ways; so, it will make us mad.



Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep’ . . .


Remember HAL 9000? “My mind is going. I can feel it.” Finally, HAL reverts to the programming of memory : “Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer.”


So, here—Macbeth activates himself as a rhetor, an actor of rhetoric. Elsewhere in the play his turbulent emotions inspire visionary poetry. Now, however, a brainsickly Macbeth goes haywire, and he reverts to programmatic “types” :


                                                     the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast—



                                                       What do you mean?


Macbeth babbles all this sleep-talk as if on actorial autopilot. He exploits time-honoured conventions—conventions both in stage and in poetry—as if seeking to rollback his mind to the time before Duncan died, when Macbeth was a heroic character in an A-list play. Facing his grim Situation, Macbeth attempts an aggressive “return to form”, and declaims in the manner of a scene-stealing actor, all to reclaim his lost “majesty” of self (just as he is about to be invested as king).


Whether it’s happening consciously or unconsciously, whether it’s psychologically heavy or panicky artificial, all this high-sounding posturing of the fallen would be cringeworthy if the Situation weren’t so godawful desperate.


A clichéd stage convention—Macbeth is attempting to command the theatre with pompous, peremptory, powerful speech, to “take centre stage”. But his timing and sense of atmosphere are off; his delicate pronunciamientos are out of phase with the slaughterous Situation.


While Macbeth’s hands drip with blood as he clutches the killing daggers, he attempts a noble note of grand, human, solemn, lofty reflection.


A clichéd poetic convention—Poems celebrating sleep were not uncommon in the Elizabethan era. One celebrated example anterior to Macbeth is Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella 39, “Come Sleep!” (1591)


A number of examples of poetry on sleep composed between 1580 and 1620 (along with examples from Ovid and Seneca) are mentioned in Albert S. Cook, “The Elizabethan Invocations to Sleep”, Modern Language Notes 4, 8 (1889), 229–31.




Macbeth has momentarily lost his marbles. Speechifying mechanically on the subject of sleep recalls the mechanicality of Private Pyle’s meltdown (“This rifle is mine”).


Then there’s Kilgore activating naive Clean into comical autopilot : “Gunner’s Mate Third Class—”




(m)irror i(m)age.


In 5.1, Lady Macbeth speechifies while sleepwalking, precursory to her final deed. So, when Lady Macbeth says :



These deeds must not be thought

After these ways; so, it will make us mad.


she is entirely correct.

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