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The Necessity of TheaterThe Art of Watching and Being Watched$
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Paul Woodruff

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195332001

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195332001.001.0001

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Staging Choices

Staging Choices

(p.75) FOUR Staging Choices
The Necessity of Theater

Paul Woodruff (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Theater puts actions on view, and actions are events that proceed from human choice. If choice is not possible for humans, or if it cannot be presented to public view, then theater will not be possible. But we do present oaths in public, most commonly at weddings, and we take them to proceed from choice, by free will. The events of a tragedy, however, seem often to be determined by fate; yet great tragic plays, such as Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, show heroes choosing their fates, so that ancient playwrights were hard compatibilists. To help an audience believe that Oedipus makes choices, Sophocles presents him as a coherent character—that is, as someone who credibly takes action, rather than passively submitting to fate. Factors that would defeat choice (such as insanity or divine intervention) also defeat character; that is why choice follows character.

Keywords:   Oedipus at Colonus, action, choice, free will, tragedy, fate, compatibilism

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