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cognisant adj : (kog'-ni-zant) (usually followed by `of') having knowledge or understanding; "our youth are cognisant of the law"; "aware of his limitations" [syn: {cognisant}, {aware(p)}] [ant: {incognisant}]

What's in a name?

Oedipus the King

The plot of Oedipus the King (Greek Oidipous Tyrannos; Latin Oedipus Rex) is a structural marvel that marks the summit of classical Greek drama's formal achievements. The play's main character, Oedipus, is the wise, happy, and beloved ruler of Thebes. Though hot-tempered, impatient, and arrogant at times of crisis, he otherwise seems to enjoy every good fortune. But Oedipus mistakenly believes that he is the son of King Polybus of Corinth and his queen. He became the ruler of Thebes because he rescued the city from the Sphinx by answering its riddle correctly, and so was awarded the city's widowed queen, Jocasta. Before overcoming the Sphinx, Oedipus left Corinth forever because the Delphic oracle had prophesied to him that he would kill his father and marry his mother. While journeying to Thebes from Corinth, Oedipus encountered at a crossroads an old man accompanied by five servants. Oedipus got into an argument with him and in a fit of arrogance and bad temper killed the old man and four of his servants.

The play opens with the city of Thebes stricken by a plague and its citizens begging Oedipus to find a remedy. He consults the Delphic oracle, which declares that the plague will cease only when the murderer of Jocasta's first husband, King Laius, has been found and punished for his deed. Oedipus resolves to find Laius' killer, and much of the rest of the play centres upon the investigation he conducts in this regard. In a series of tense, gripping, and ominous scenes Oedipus' investigation turns into an obsessive reconstruction of his own hidden past as he begins to suspect that the old man he killed at the crossroads was none other than Laius. Finally, Oedipus learns that he himself was abandoned to die as a baby by Laius and Jocasta because they feared a prophecy that their infant son would kill his father; that he survived and was adopted by the ruler of Corinth, but in his maturity he has unwittingly fulfilled the Delphic oracle's prophecy of him; that he has indeed killed his true father, married his own mother, and begot children who are also his own siblings.

Jocasta hangs herself when she sees this shameful web of incest, parricide, and attempted child murder, and the guilt-stricken Oedipus then sticks needles into his eyes, blinding himself. Sightless and alone, he is now blind to the world around him but finally cognisant of the terrible truth of his own life.


Discovery procedures

In general, English common law lacked procedural devices aimed at giving the parties and the court advance notice of the factual contentions of both sides prior to the trial of the action. Whatever information was obtained by a party about the opposing party's case was received from the pleadings. This absence of discovery devices was a reflection of a judicial philosophy that held that surprise was a proper tactical device and that withholding information from one's opponent until trial would prevent an unscrupulous adversary from fabricating evidence. Limited discovery devices were, however, available in the equity courts.

Reforms were instituted in the 19th and 20th centuries. A mid-19th-century New York code, for example, provided that each party could serve written questionnaires on its adversary, could compel the adversary to produce documents prior to the trial, and could, under some circumstances, take the oral deposition of any witness, whether or not a party to the action. Even with these changes, discovery proceedings were limited. In 1938 new U.S. federal rules expanded the discovery process further. It was hoped that more complete disclosure would result in a more thorough preparation and presentation of cases, encourage pretrial settlement by making each party cognisant of the true value of his claim, and expose, at an early stage in the proceedings, insubstantial claims that should not go to trial.


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