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The current essay analyzes two adaptations of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King: Rita Dove’s The Darker Face of the Earth and Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus El Rey, focusing on the hero’s banishment from his original home and on his return, which enables him to obtain the inheritance and power that would have been his birthrights. Attention is also paid to Oedipus as the emblematic truth-seeker who wants to access knowledge at all costs. In navigating the wealth of sources on the adaptation of Greek tragedy for the American stage, the objective is to identify insights relevant for Dove and Alfaro, whose African American and Chicanx backgrounds influence their rewritings of the famous play. It is the conclusion of the study that the two artists successfully address urgent political issues for contemporary American society: the need to remember the injustices at the heart of its historical race-based slavery system and the need to empower underprivileged youths so that their lives wouldn’t be destroyed by incarceration in the US prison system.
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