Fabulous input. Please be assured I had absolutely no specific direction in mind for the course this discussion was and is to take. Honestly, I perceived both of my previous posts in this thread as “stabs in the dark”, and even if there was a serendipitous sliver of significance in either of them, I certainly did not intend them to be the exclusive lens or prism through which David Chase’s choice of the name “Colonna” should be viewed. I merely wanted to cast my line into the water with some bait and see if I could get a nibble or two; your quest to observe the significance of that choice from the Oedipal vantage point is equally as valid in this discussion, and most welcome.
Now as to your invitation for me to put some thought to your proposition. Unfortunately, I am not capable of providing an insightful in-depth Freudian analysis on ANY topic, being only aware of his works, but not being more than topically familiar with them. The same is true of my knowledge of Oedipus. Therefore my attempt to provide discourse on the choice of the name “Colonna” as it relates to Oedipus at Colonus will be amateurish at best (and in all likelihood will only further serve to highlight my ignorance).
I’ll start with my limited knowledge of Oedipus in general (generously supplemented with large chunks of internet informational scavenge): Laius and Jocasta were King and Queen of Thebes. A prophecy revealed that their son Oedipus would grow up to kill Laius, his own father, and then marry Jocasta, his own mother. Fearing fulfillment of the prophecy, Laius and Jocasta order a servant to kill the infant. The servant couldn't carry out the command and instead, delivered the child to a Corinthian shepherd, who in turn passed the yong boy on to Polybus, the childless King of Corinth. Polybus adopted Oedipus as his own and he was raised to believe that he was Polybus’ natural son.
Later an oracle repeats the prophecy to the now grown Oedipus. Still believing Polybus to be his natural father, Oedipus leaves Corinth to avoid any chance at fulfilling the prophecy. As he travels, at the convergence of three roads, Oedipus became caught up in a violent argument with a band of travelers. He managed to kill all but one of his attackers, but remained oblivious to the tragic irony of this triumph: among the men he had slain was Laius, his true father.
Upon arriving in Thebes, Oedipus undertook a mission to save the city from the Sphinx. He succeeds where all others before him had failed, by correctly answering the Sphinx’s riddle:
"What goes first on four legs, then on two, and then on three?" Oedipus, correctly answering "Man," gains the power to finally destroy her. He is then acclaimed as King of Thebes, and in time, meets, falls in love with, and marries the widowed Queen Jocasta, his natural mother. Neither are aware that by the marriage the prophecy had now been completed. They (unknowingly) engage in incestuous sexual relations, resulting in 2 daughters (Antigone and Ismene) and 2 sons (Eteocles and Polynieces)
The truth is revealed to Oedipus when a plague strikes Thebes. Creon, Jocasta's brother (and unknown to Oedipus, his uncle), travels to Delphi to seek Apollo’s wisdom on how the plague might be ended. Creon returns to Thebes with the news that Apollo had declared that the plague had come upon the city because the very man who had murdered King Laius years before was now a resident of Thebes. Apollo advises further that the plague would only end when the murderer was exposed and exiled from the city.
Oedipus, still unaware that he himself was the one who had killed Laius, vowed to find the murderer. He consults with a blind soothsayer, Teiresias, who hesitantly claims not to know the murderer's name, but, when pressed, Teiresias finally relents and reveals to Oedipus that he is the man who killed the former king. Oedipus angrily refuses to accept the guilt and accuses the blind soothsayer of conspiring with Jocasta's brother, Creon, to overthrow him.
Subsequently, Jocasta tells Oedipus the complete circumstances about the earlier prophecy, but maintained that it could not have come to pass since Laius had not been killed by his son, but by a band of robbers at a place where three roads meet. Oedipus reveals to Jocasta that he himself had once killed a man at such a place and for the first time, both mother and son began to suspect that the words of Teiresias might be true.
Their suspicions are temporarily allayed when a messenger from Corinth brings news that Polybus had died. Oedipus and Jocasta conclude that since Oedipus had not killed his own father, the original prophecy was false and that Oedipus did not kill Jocasta's first husband. But their relief is also temporary as the messenger tells Oedipus that he was adopted and that Polybus was not his natural father. He further tells Oedipus that a Theban herdsman found him as a baby on a hillside, and gave him to the messenger who presented the young Oedpius to childless King Polybus.
Oedipus summons the herdsman, who discloses the full story of the servant and child he had dealt with years before. The old servant was then questioned; reluctant to confess the truth but urged on by Oedipus, he tells the tale of how Jocasta and Laius had ordered him to take their infant son into the country and slay him, and how he did not have the courage to do so.
At that moment, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place: Oedipus was the infant of whom they spoke; Jocasta, his wife, was also his mother, who had long ago turned him over to be killed; and the man he had slain at the crossroads was none other than his true father.
At the realization that she had actually been an accomplice to the fulfillment of the prophecy, Jocasta rushed to her room and hung herself. Oedipus cut down her body, tore the broaches from her clothes, and with them, blinded himself. Oedipus is led into exile by Creon, who became king in his stead, and the plague at last came to an end.
In Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles tells the story of the tragic hero’s life after years of blindly wandering in exile. Oedipus, the blind and banished King of Thebes, has come in his wanderings, as a mere beggar, to Colonus, an Athenian suburb, led by his daughter Antigone. But he has been transformed form a lowly beggar into a man empowered to grant or withhold great blessings.
He sits to rest on a rock within a grove sacred to the Eumenides: female spirits who torment the guilty. Oedipus is asked to leave the place by a passing native. But Oedipus, instructed by an oracle that he had reached his final resting place, refuses to leave, and the stranger agrees to consult the Elders of Colonus.
The Elders arrive, initially pitying the blind beggar and his daughter, but when they discover who he is, they demand that he leave, fearful of the curses that may follow him into their lands. Oedipus appeals to the world-famed hospitality of Athens and hints that if he is permitted to stay and be buried in Athenian soil, blessings, not curses, will be bestowed on Athens. The Elders agree that his request will be put to the Athenian King, Theseus for final decision.
While awaiting Theseus, Oedipus’ daughter, Ismene, arrives from Thebes with the news that his son Eteocles and his uncle, Creon want Oedipus to return to Thebes in order to secure his blessing and avoid a harsh fate foretold by the oracle. Oedipus refuses to return, and when Theseus arrives, Oedipus promises him a great blessing for the city if he is allowed to stay, die, and be buried at Colonus.
King Theseus pledges to help and befriends Oedipus, then departs. As soon as the King leaves, Creon enters the grove with an armed guard seizing Antigone and carrying her off ; Ismene, the other daughter, has already been similarly captured. Creon is about to attack Oedipus, when Theseus, who has heard the commotion, confronts Creon and threatens to keep him prisoner unless he releases Oedipus’ daughters from captivity. The daughters are freed and Creon departs.
King Theseus next informs Oedipus that a stranger who has taken sanctuary at the altar of Poseidon wishes to see him. The stranger is Oedipus’ son, Polyneices, come to ask his father's forgiveness and blessing in support of a war to reclaim the throne from his brother and Creon, knowing by an oracle that victory will fall to the side that Oedipus favors. But Oedipus spurns the hypocrite Polynieces, and invokes a dire curse on both his unnatural sons, prophesying that he and his brother Eteocles will die at one another’s hand.
Loud continuous thunder claps signal to Oedipus that his time of death has come. He leads Theseus, Ismene, and Antigone into a hidden part of the grove and ritually prepares for death. Only Theseus actually witnesses the end of Oedipus’ life. Since Oedipus’ final resting place is at Colonus, Athens receives his blessing and protection, and Thebes earns his curse.
At the conclusion of the play, Antigone and Ismene return to Thebes, hoping to avert the war and civil strife.
Before injecting Freud into the mix, I’d like to consider the connections of Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex, summarized above, standing alone, to the Sopranos. It still considered to this day to be THE model story of tragedy. It is not surprising then that it’s themes are repeated to this day, and several can be (loosely) found in the unfolding story of Tony Soprano and his families.
First, Tony Soprano, like Oedipus is destined by fate to his criminal acts: Oedipus by way of prophecy and Tony by way of “familial” example. What does this portend for A.J.?
Second, Tony, like Oedipus, arrogantly refuses to accept his own guilt for his crimes because of pride. The Monks tell Tony to lose his “arrogance” in “Join the Club” and ask him to accept responsibility for his actions in “Mayahm”, yet he refuses to do so. And, in season 5, Silvio tells Tony that his “deadly sin” is “pride”...that he has a problem with authority, and always did. The Greeks had a distinct word for this: "Hubris," a heroically foolish defiance; the feeling that one is beyond the reaches of authority or convention.
Is there any better description for the mentality and attitude of Tony Soprano than the “Hubris” shared by Oedipus? Oedipus’ Hubris (arrogantly defying cosmic and priestly authority, fate and prophecy) is the same quality that enabled him to earlier confront and defeat the Sphinx and to save an oppressed city. But, pitting that pride against the gods and fate was also his downfall. Can we not see then that Tony’s Hubris, pitted against God, authority and fate will also most likely be his downfall as well?
Third, Tony is also trying to solve a “riddle”, like Oedipus with the riddle of the Sphinx: only Tony’s riddle is the riddle within himself. When Oedipus did solve the riddle he was empowered to defeat the terrorizing female monster. Tony is, and has been, on a quest, with the help of Dr. Melfi, to confront and solve the riddle of why his relationship with his mother has affected him so deeply as to manifest itself into his panic attacks. The solution, if one is ever to be found, may empower Tony to eventually defeat his own terrorizing female monster and destroy her grip on him.
Fourth, Tony, like Oedipus seeks an identity. Oedipus seeks the identity of the unknown murderer of the king whose presence in Thebes brings a plague on his people. Ultimately, Oedipus finds that he and the murderer share the same identity. In the coma “experience” Tony is seeking to an identity for himself, either as Tony Soprano or, reluctantly, as Kevin Finnerty. And, the PRIMARY theme of the Sopranos, in general, is an attempt to define Tony Soprano. Perhaps Tony (arrogantly) refuses to accept that it is he who, by his actions, lifestyle and identity as a criminal, himself brings a “plague” of misery on his own family which cannot end until he is exiled (by prison or death).
Fifth, there is the common plot device used in both tales of an uncle (Junior/Creon) conspiring with the another (Livia/Teiresias) to have Tony/Oedipus supplanted as boss/king.
There are also some very grand connections between the themes of Oedipus at Colonus and the Sopranos.
First, this play begins with Oedipus wandering blindly with a trusted guide, his daughter. This theme has presented itself throughout all of the Soprano’s seasons in the form of Tony wandering blindly through the maze of his own psychic short-wiring with the help of a trusted guide, Dr. Melfi. It is also on display more specifically in “Join the Club” and “Mayahm” in which Tony is wandering blindly through a strange land, looking for a place to rest, like Oedipus in the grove of the Eumenides.
Second, like Oedipus Tony has become a man capable of bestowing or withholding great blessings.
Third, Tony’s “absence” from the “throne” have allowed ambitious plots to be created to seize control of power. Oedipus had the same problem with the warring factions of his two sons and his uncle.
Fourth, and most importantly for me, is Oedipus’ request to the King and Elders that he be permitted to spend his remaining days in the safety of the sacred ground in Colonus, in return for which he will reward them with great blessings. I see a similar request in Tony seeking safety in his remaining days with Carmella in the sacredness of their marriage. And it is here that the Colonna connection in Tony’s coma experience is made, at least for me. Tony’s request to be permitted entrance to see Colonel Colonna is a request for support from Carmella (see my first post on this topic) for a chance to remain with her on earth in a beautiful safe place. His request is refused without identity, that is, until he can demonstrate to Carmella just who he will be if permitted into that sacred place.
Now let’s add Freud to the mix. If I understand you correctly, you think there may be a connection to the Freudian concept of an oedipal complex in Tony Soprano, by the use of the name “Colonna”, and it’s etymological connection to the story of Oedipus at Colonus. I am not sure that I can make that connection.
Freud postulated that human behavior was ruled from the time of birth by sexuality through an evolving process of psychosexual development. According to Freud, Sophocles' play, Oedipus Rex, illustrates a formative stage in each individual's psychosexual development, when the young child transfers his love object from the breast (the oral phase) to the mother. At this time, the child desires the love and approval of his mother and resents (even secretly desires the murder of) the father, who competes for her love. Freud noted that such primal desires are quickly repressed in properly developing children but, even among the mentally sane, they can arise again in dreams and may still play out as psychodrama in various displaced, abnormal, and/or exaggerated ways.
According to Freud the “oedipal” urges transcend time and place, as proven, to him, by the classic play Oedipus Rex and its ability to move both ancient and modern audiences. But the use of Oedipus Rex as support for his theory is suspect. Freud takes the play out of context. Oedipus’ actions of killing his father and marrying his mother are accidental and unknowing, not the product of universal and timeless psychosexual desire.
Perhaps Chase and company have injected “oedipal” themes (intentionally or otherwise) as the genesis of Tony’s panic attacks and/or as a root cause of some of Tony’s more displaced, abnormal and exaggerated behaviors. I am not sold on this idea completely. If they exist, they certainly have not been flagrantly advertised by any known desire that Tony has (or had) to kill his father or “marry” his mother (or to engage in an incestuous sexual relationship with her). And there is no indication that Tony has not, from a purely Freudian developmental analysis, failed to properly develop psychosexually.
I grant you that Tony has “mother” issues, I just don’t find them to be of the classic “oedipal” nature. As far as I can tell, the more substantial connection between Oedipus Rex and the Sopranos lies not in the relationship between Tony and Livia, but between Tony and his Hubris, as discussed above.
Alright Catherine...it’s now your turn to let me know what I have missed.
</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p098.ezboard.com/bthechaselounge.showUserPublicProfile?gid=billymac72261>billymac72261</A> at: 4/2/06 1:51 pm