Philosophical Theatricality: Castellucci’s staging of Hölderlin’s Oedipus the Tyrant


  • Keld Hyldig University of Bergen



Romeo Castellucci, Friedrich Hölderlin, tragedy, Oedipus the Tyrant, caesura as theatrical device, agon, Christianity, feminine mysteries


In 2015, the Italian director Romeo Castellucci staged Oedipus the Tyrant at Schaubühne in Berlin. The staging was based on the German poet-philosopher Friedrich Hölderlin’s translation, which is known for its peculiar linguistic, philosophical, and theatrical approaches to Greek tragedy. The article examines how Castellucci in continuation of Hölderlin’s translation and commentaries to the tragedy, staged Oedipus as a theatrical – and philosophical – confrontation between religious and rational approaches to knowledge. The staging was seemingly simple, showing a group of nuns performing Oedipus in a monastery. However, the nuns’ Christian and feminine performance of the pagan and masculine tragedy formed the base of a metatheatrical and philosophical complexity in and between different approaches to knowledge. The philosophical complexity of the staging was reinforced through other metatheatrical elements, as for example a film projection showing Romeo Castellucci getting tear gas sprayed in his eyes, which made the relation between physical reality and fictional representation an issue.

Author Biography

Keld Hyldig, University of Bergen

Keld Hyldig is Associate Professor in Theatre Studies at the University of Bergen. Hyldig holds a PhD with a thesis about the Ibsen tradition at the National Theatre in Oslo. He has published several articles about the Ibsen tradition in Norwegian theatre and other topics within the field of theatre studies. Main fields of scholarly interest are Ibsen in the theatre, classical and contemporary tragedy, aesthetic theory, and dramaturgy.


Badiou, Alain. 2008. Conditions. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Badiou, Alain. 2005. Handbook of Inaesthetics. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Badiou, Alain. 2007. The Century. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Benjamin, Walter. 1972 (1923). “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers” in Gesammelte Schriften, bd. IV/1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.

Bernofsky, Susan. 2005. Foreign Words: Translators-Authors in the Age of Goethe. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Billings, Joshua. 2014. Genealogy of the tragic: Greek Tragedy and German Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Billings, Joshua. 2013. ”Choral Dialectics. Hölderlin and Hegel” in R. Gagné and M. G. Hopman (ed.), Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bleeker, Maaike (ed.) 2002. Bodycheck: Relocating the Body in Comtemporary Performing Art. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Castellucci, Claudia, 2007. The Theatre of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio. London: Routledge.

Castellucci, Romeo. 2000. “The Animal Being On Stage” in Performance Research, vol. 5, no. 2, 2000, 23—28.

Champlin, Marjorie W. 1969. “Oedipus Tyrannus and the Problem of Knowledge” in The Classical Journal, vol. 64, no. 8, 1969, p. 337—45.

Decreus, Freddy. 2008. “The Nomadic Theatre of the Socìetas Rafaello Sanzio” in Lorna Harwick (ed.), A Companion to Classical Receptions. Singapore: Blackwell Publishing.

“Des jeunes du Renouveau Français interrompent Castellucci”, accessed 5 October 2016.

Dilthey, Wilhelm. 1906. Das Erlebnis und die Dichtung, Lessing, Goethe, Novalis, Hölderlin. Leipzig: Teubner.

D’Urso, Sanda. 2013. “On the Theology of Romeo Castellucci's Theatre and the Politics of the Christian ‘Occupation’ of His Stage” in Theatre Research International, vol. 38, 2013 no. 1, 34—46.

Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed 8 August 2016.

Giannachi, Gabriella - Kaye, Nick. 2002. Staging the Post-Avant-Garde: Italian Experimental Performance after 1970. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Glaubrecht, Martin. 1972. “Hölderlin, Friedrich" in Neue Deutsche Biographie 9. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.

Gregory, Rabia. 2007. Marrying Jesus; Brides and the Bridegroom in Medieval Women’s Religious Literature. PhD-dissertation from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2007. accessed 12 August 2016.

Hillaert, Wouter & Crombez, Thomas. 2005. “Cruelty in the Theatre of The Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio” (University of Brussels, 2005). Online edition: accessed 24 February 2016.

Hölderlin, Friedrich. 1946—1977. Sämtliche Werke. Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe, vol. 7. Online edition:

Hölderlin, Friedrich. “Rezensionen der Trauerspiel des Sophokles” in Sämtliche Werke. vol. 7. Hölderlin, Friedrich. “Anmerkungen zum Ödipus” in Sämtliche Werke, vol. 5.

Hölderlin, Friedrich. “Anmerkungen zur Antigone” in Sämtliche Werke, vol. 5. Internet Archive,

Jaspers, Karl. 1971. “Vollendung der Wahrheit in Ursprünglichen Anschauungen (Beispiel das tragische Wissen) ” in Volkmar Sander (ed.), Tragik und Tragödie, Darmstadt 1971.

Kimeswenger, Irina Farah. 2014. Ist der Mensch rasend oder stellt er sich nur so? Friedrich Hölderlins Übersetzungen aus dem Griechischen, Diplomarbeit Mag. phil., University of Vienna 2014. Online edition: accessed 15 March 2016.

Krell, David Farrell. 2005. The Tragic absolute: German Idealism and the Languishing of God. Indiana Bloomington: University Press.

Kocziszky, Eva. 1997. Mythenfiguren in Hölderlins Spätwerk. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.

Kreuzer, Johann. 2002. Hölderlin Handbuch: Leben-Werk-Wirkung. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler.

Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. 2001. Metaphrasis. Das Theater Hölderlins. Rieden: Diphanes.

Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. 2000. “Hölderlin’s Theatre” in Miguel De Beistegui & Simon Sparks (ed.), Philosophy and Tragedy. London: Routledge.

Nichol, David. 2009. “Heidegger and Jaspars on the tragic” in Existenz. An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics and the Arts, vol. 4, no. 2, 2009. Online edition:

Papalexiou, Eleni. 2011. “The body as dramatic material in the theatre of Romeo Castellucci” in Prospero European Review: Theatre and Research, Edition 2. 2011, online edition:

Pearson, Joseph. “Violence is What You Don’t Expect: Romeo Castellucci’s Oedipus the Tyrant 2015”. accessed 15 March 2016.

van Peperstaten, Frans. 2008. “Modernity in Hölderlin’s Remarks on Oedipus and Antigone” in Arthur Cools et al. (ed.) The Locus of Tragedy. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Performance Philosophy: a Network for the field of Performance Philosophy:

“Romeo Castellucci: adresse au agresseurs”, accessed 6 October 2016.

Puchner, Martin. 2009. “The Theatre of Alain Badiou” in Theatre Research International, vol. 34, no. 3, 2009, 256—266.

Puchner, Martin. 2010. The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Puchner, Martin. 2013. “Afterword: Please Mind the Gap between Theatre and Philosophy” in Modern Drama, Volume 56, no. 4, 2013, 540—553.

Rokem, Freddie. 2010. Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

“Romeo Castellucci 'forgives' Christian protesters for interrupting play”, The Guardian, accessed 6 October 2016.

“Romeo Castellucci interview/Oedipus Tyrann”, Kulturstruktur: interviews. (retrieved 19 February 2016)

The Theatre Archive of Sociètas Rafaello Sanzio:

Sanchez, Jose A. 2014. Practicing the Real on the Contemporary Stage. Chicago: Intellect, The University of Chicago Press.

Schmidt, Dennis J. 2001. On Germans and other Greeks: Tragedy and Ethical life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Spariosu, Mihai. 1991. God of Many Names: Play, Poetry, and Power in Hellenic Thought from Homer to Aristotle. London: Duke University Press.

Tambling, Jeremy. 2014. Hölderlin and the Poetry of Tragedy: Readings in Sophocles, Shakespeare, Nietzsche and Benjamin. Sussex: Academic Press.

Valentini, Valentina. 1997. “The Oresteia of the Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio” in Performance Research, vol. 2, no 3, 1997, 58—64.

Warren, Rosie. 2014. “An interview with Alain Badiou: theatre and philosophy, an antagonistic and complementary old couple”, 9 September 2014, Verso accessed 1 June 2016.

Ödipus der Tyrann, Schaubühne, Programme.




How to Cite

Hyldig, K. (2017). Philosophical Theatricality: Castellucci’s staging of Hölderlin’s Oedipus the Tyrant. Nordic Theatre Studies, 28(2), 119–145.



Articles open section