Example #1 – Oedipus The King
Oedipus the King starts in the legend where Oedipus, king of Thebes, is trying to get rid of the plague in his city. Oedipus sends Creon to the oracles at Delphi to get the answer to the city’s problems. Creon is away for a long time, and he returns with Teiresias, the blind prophet. They repeat the oracles’ statement: the plague will end only when Laios’ murderer is discovered. Sophocles tells the events in order and finally unmask Oedipus as the murderer. That Oedipus acted like he didn’t know anything about this was irrelevant; he feels he must be punished for his terrible crime, and so in his despair he blinds himself. His wife and mother Iocaste hang herself. Creon ascends the throne of Thebes, and Oedipus goes into exile.
A priest of Thebes slowly advances toward Oedipus. He is hesitant and cautious before this famous person. You realize that Oedipus isn’t looked up to just because he’s the king; he’s genuinely admired and respected. The priest speaks urgently, informing the king that the city of Thebes, once prosperous, is now in ruin. A mysterious, unnatural plague has settled on the countryside, causing unborn children to die, and the cattle to get sick. Perhaps today you’d look to science for a solution to such a calamity. In Sophocles’ time, however, there would have been no doubt in anyone’s mind that there are religious causes for this misery.
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It appears that these people have come to seek comfort and advice from Oedipus, the “wisest in the ways of God.” Oedipus, after all, solved the riddle of the Sphinx. Surely, they feel, Oedipus can now find a remedy for the plague. Only Oedipus can restore Thebes to its former glory. Oedipus is genuinely touched by the spectacle of his suffering “children.” He promises to investigate the unknown cause of the deadly plague. In fact, like any effective leader, he’s already taken action. He explains that he’s sent Creon, brother of his wife, Queen Iocaste, to the sacred city of Delphi to ask the oracles for a pledge that might yet save the city from destruction. Oedipus is worried, however, that Creon has been gone too long. Just then, Creon rushes in with a troubled expression on his face.
This revelation is a huge shock among the Theban citizens. But Oedipus immediately presses for more specific information. He demands that Creon name the man responsible for the crime but Creon can only repeat the story of the crime as it was told to him by the oracles: Laios, who was king of Thebes before Oedipus, went on a religious pilgrimage. On the road, he was brutally attacked by a band of highwaymen. The former king and his servants, save one who escaped spreading the word of the crime, were killed or left to die. Directly following Laios’ murder, new problems arose in Thebes, and there was never a chance to hunt down the killers and avenge the murder.
Oedipus is outraged by this tale, and he resolves to avenge the murder of Laios personally. He has several motives for this: 1. personal safety: the murderer could reappear at any moment to kill him as well; 2. public duty: asking he must avenge the city and the city’s god; 3. moral concern: for everyone’s sake it will be good to be rid of evil. The Prologue concludes, however, with a note of joyous celebration. The suppliants and priests gather up their ceremonial olive boughs and fig branches. They rejoice, certain that Oedipus will expose the murderer and save the city from inevitable ruin. Oedipus himself exits proudly, reminding his followers that he will do all he can to unmask the murderer:
The Prologue is traditionally followed in Greek tragedy by the Parados, where the Chorus enters. As the “ideal spectator” of these events, this group of actors represents the community and speaks directly to the audience. First, the Chorus restates poetically that Thebes is dying because of the unexplained plague; that the gods must swiftly- but mercifully- intervene to save the city. The Chorus then prays to the gods, asking them to relieve the city from despair. The first antistrophe concludes with a direct plea for Athene and Artemis, goddesses of mercy, to save the city again.
The second strophe and antistrophe again offer prayers and praise to the gods if they will intercede to save Thebes and end the people’s afflictions. This second and concluding strophe and antistrophe, however, ask the gods to be tender and compassionate. Already, a seed is planted in your mind- perhaps Thebes will have to pay a high price for relief. The Chorus works itself up to a frenzied climax in the third strophe, forcefully recalling that the plague resulted from the shameful actions of a “besieger,” the murderer of Laios. The Chorus calls for a violent revenger:
The final antistrophe rises to a note of religious ecstasy. The Chorus declares that when the plague ends, the faithful must be prepared to greet the moment with celebration. As the Chorus turns to exit, it leaves the audience a final warning. The gods will: Oedipus enters from the palace and delivers a speech. He recalls how he came as a stranger to Thebes. He promises personally to provide relief from all the evils that have beset the land. In the middle of his long speech, Oedipus’ anger rises, and he promises a curse on the murderer of Laios. He further decrees that anyone hiding the murderer will be driven from the land and denied all religious rites of prayer and sacrifice- thus damned eternally. Oedipus concludes by pledging that the murderer will be “consumed in evil and wretchedness.”
The Chorus interrupts Oedipus to suggest that a clairvoyant be sent forth to investigate the mystery. Oedipus- always one step ahead- tells the Chorus that he has already sent Creon to seek out the prophet Teiresias. He’s worried, however, because Creon hasn’t returned yet. Although Oedipus believes in oracles or prophets, he decided to summon Teiresias only because Creon suggested it. Oedipus’ later suspicion of a conspiracy between Creon and Teiresias is the result of their late arrival in Thebes.
Teiresias finally arrives alone. The Chorus, signifying the public respect for this man, hails him with cheers as he is led to the stage by a young child. Your first impression of him, therefore, is a mix of power and helplessness. The blind prophet retreats as Oedipus moves toward him. At first, Teiresias is stubborn and refuses to answer any of Oedipus’ questions. Oedipus is puzzled by this personal insult to him asking, and in turn, reacts with disrespect to Teiresias. When Teiresias does speak, it is in riddles and jingles. He tells Oedipus that “there is no help in truth,” and that only misery can result from his knowledge.
Oedipus’ tone is bold and you can imagine the loss of respect that Oedipus suffers in the eyes of the audience. But Oedipus is so angry and frustrated that he can think only that Teiresias and Creon have planned to humiliate him here in front of his people. He even accuses Teiresias of being behind the murder: Teiresias responds by saying that Oedipus himself is the “pollution” of Thebes. Taken aback, Oedipus doesn’t understand what Teiresias has said. But Teiresias repeats it and adds, even more specifically, that Oedipus is the murderer he seeks. When Oedipus demands that Teiresias takes back what he has said, the holy prophet refuses. But Oedipus cannot accept the truth. His anger turns to the absent Creon, and he accuses Creon and Teiresias of plotting to seize power by discrediting him.
Speaking as the ideal spectator, the Chorus interrupts and reminds Oedipus and Teiresias that they have both spoken in anger. The Chorus also tells that the only important matter is to decide how the gods’ will can best be served. The argument continues, however, and Teiresias reminds Oedipus that although he is a king, he is not a god. The prophet is only speaking for the gods, and he reprimands Oedipus for his “blindness” in this matter. Before his exit, Teiresias reminds Oedipus that he once solved the riddle of the Sphinx. The holy prophet offers Oedipus another riddle to solve. The mysterious riddle describes the murderer of Laios. He is a “blind man, who has his eyes now.” Teiresias says that when this murderer is discovered he will tap the earth with his staff (like a blind man’s white cane), and he will be to his children
This prediction seems like an ominous, convoluted echo of Oedipus’ birth prophecy. The first scene ends abruptly with the exit of Teiresias. Oedipus is left alone on stage to think about the riddles Teiresias gave him to solve. ODE I. Choral songs (stasima) were an important part of traditional Greek tragedy. They were used as interludes or transitions between scenes. The Chorus may have chanted, recited, or spoken the choral songs in a rhythmic pattern as it moved around the stage in a semicircular pattern. The first choral song has two strophes and two antistrophes. The Chorus is uncertain and hesitates to support either Oedipus or Teiresias in the argument that concluded the previous scene. The Chorus is consoled, however, by recalling that the murderer is even now being pursued by Oedipus, and predicts that the Furies will also track down the desolate villain responsible for Laios’ death. There’s no way the murderer will escape punishment.
In a second strophe and antistrophe, the Chorus continues to express confusion. After weighing the evidence, however, the Chorus declares its faith in Oedipus. The main reason for trusting him rather than Teiresias is personal past experience: Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx. The Chorus concludes that Oedipus, the city’s savior, can’t be doubted until he is proved wrong. Distinct memories resurface: The final choral ode is important to the development of the story because the Chorus supports Oedipus’ side of the argument with Teiresias. Later, when Oedipus is discovered to be the murderer of Laios, the Chorus admits its error in supporting him. Like any citizen committee responsible for evaluating evidence and making a decision, the Chorus can make a mistake. But it can also recognize that mistake and reverse its opinion. Watch now as the tide of opinion turns gradually away from Oedipus and toward the truth of Teiresias’ prophecy.
SCENE II. Creon now enters to address the Chorus and the audience. He had been absent when Oedipus accused him and Teiresias of conspiring to seize power; this is his opportunity to speak when Oedipus is not present. Creon begins protesting his innocence and denying that he is part of any conspiracy. Tension builds as Creon personally attacks the reputation and moral character of Oedipus. This would be a lot like the “character assassination” tactics that followed the downfall of Richard Nixon. Creon speaks in anger but also out of fear. Why? He is innocent of conspiracy but perhaps doesn’t trust Oedipus to behave fairly. This is the first time you’ve felt Oedipus’ ability as a leader questioned. Already his power is starting to disintegrate.
Creon’s outrage reaches its climax when he asks the Chorus if Oedipus has lost his mind, almost replaying the previous scene: The Chorus is surprised by Creon’s outburst. It admits that there’s no way of knowing whether Oedipus was seriously accusing Creon or just spouting off in anger. But the Chorus reminds Creon that Oedipus is king and that it is impossible to judge the behavior of great men. This is an important point to consider. The Chorus may be saying that Oedipus has a right to say and do whatever he chooses because he is the king, an absolute authority. Or the Chorus may be saying that for the good of the state no one should question the actions of a ruler.
The mood of the scene is quickly shattered when Oedipus enters the palace. Oedipus obviously has had time to think about the conspiracy he suspected in the first scene; further thought has confirmed his suspicions, however. His first words to Creon are an accusation. He calls Creon a murderer and demands that he confess to having killed Laios. Creon is stunned by this. He doesn’t understand why he should now also be a suspect in the murder. Oedipus’ principal argument is that if Teiresias knew the brutal facts of Laios’ death, he should have spoken out earlier. Why did he wait until now to accuse Oedipus? Oedipus asks. Was he bribed to do so by Creon? Oedipus’ logic may be off-base here, but Creon is taken off guard just now, and he tries to meet the accusations.
The only answer Creon can think of to defend Teiresias is that Teiresias is a man who holds his tongue when he has no facts to go on. For himself, however, Creon can think of several reasons why this accusation is false. Turning toward the audience for support, he lists four reasons why he wouldn’t be Oedipus’ rival for power. Creon presents his defense by saying: 1. he never wanted a king’s power, only his individual rights; 2. he would refuse the office of the king because he never wanted to be a slave to policy; 3. he has no need of personal “honors,” only his honorable reputation; and 4. he hates anarchy and could not support any man who did.
Turning back to Oedipus, Creon encourages the king to visit the priestess at Delphi to hear for himself that Creon quoted her accurately. After that, Creon says, if Oedipus still thinks there is a conspiracy, he can sentence Creon to immediate death. This is a brave offer to make, but Creon has worked up his sense of innocence- and perhaps his anger- to a bold pitch. The Chorus interrupts, encouraging Oedipus to consider the wisdom of Creon’s words. For the first time, the Chorus suggests that Oedipus is not acting like a wise and honored ruler. But Oedipus ignores the Chorus’s advice. Instead, he demands that Creon be put to death as a “symbol” of what treason means. As his anger mounts, Oedipus says that Creon is “evil incarnate,” and should pay for his treason with his life.
Surprisingly, Creon remains calm throughout this outburst. He doesn’t interrupt again to protest his innocence. His only reaction is to say to the audience that Oedipus is a “fool.” His self-control throws Oedipus’ irrational reaction into a bad light. Mercifully, the heated argument is broken off when the Chorus announces that the queen, Iocaste, is approaching; perhaps she’ll be able to make peace between her husband and her brother. This pause in the action of the story gives you a moment to look at what is happening. Oedipus has lost control; he scarcely seems capable of reason or logic. Creon emerges as a sympathetic character who is being abused and misjudged, Iocaste’s arrival, however, presents you with some hope that the argument will be resolved without bloodshed.
Why is Oedipus behaving so rashly? In a matter of a few hours, he has dramatically changed from a compassionate ruler, interested in solving the mystery of the plague, to a ranting hothead, intent on destroying Creon. Imagine yourself in Oedipus’ position. Teiresias’ troubling prophecy is still fresh in his mind. Perhaps Oedipus is now beginning to suspect that he himself played a role in the murder of Laios- and it bothers him. Iocaste has been drawn to the scene by the men’s loud voices, which she overheard in her bedroom. Imagine Iocaste’s entering here like a worried mother who has heard her children fighting over some trivial matter. She tries to persuade Oedipus and Creon to be calm and behave themselves. But Oedipus refuses to listen to her and again demands the death of Creon.
One unique feature of Iocaste’s scene with Oedipus and Creon is the insertion of two strophes to separate the lines of dialogue. Remember that strophes were used before in the Parados, chiefly to suggest the indecision of the Chorus. Here, however, they are used to plead with Oedipus. The Chorus begs Oedipus to open his mind to Iocaste’s views and to respect Creon’s protests of innocence. When Oedipus refuses to change his position, the Chorus attacks his vanity and laments his once-noble character. It also reminds him that there’s trouble enough in Thebes without the king causing more. Urged on all sides, Oedipus finally agrees to spare Creon’s life but insists that he leave Thebes at once. He remains angry toward his brother-in-law, though, vowing to hate him as long as he lives. Creon, on the other hand, shows no bitterness toward Oedipus. He keeps his poise and noble stature, in contrast to Oedipus’ ugly rage.
When Creon is banished from Thebes, it appears to Oedipus that the problem has been solved. Oedipus seems convinced that Creon was responsible for the plague, and that Creon and Teiresias really were plotting to seize his throne. You could expect Oedipus and Iocaste to return to the palace at this point. But if they did that the play would be over. Sophocles introduces more conflict by having Iocaste ask the Chorus what Oedipus and Creon had been arguing about.
Iocaste’s question is ironic because it causes her to learn information that will throw her life into a tail-spin. Iocaste refuses to accept the Chorus’s account of a conspiracy between Creon and Teiresias. She innocently asks Oedipus to tell her what Teiresias said that provoked such anger and confusion. Before Oedipus can relate the story, the Chorus interrupts and pleads with Iocaste to let well enough alone. Tension rises as Iocaste, despite the warning, press on. Iocaste’s innocent question prompts Oedipus to reveal the prophecy made by Teiresias. If Iocaste had not been so inquisitive, Oedipus would never have mentioned Teiresias’ visit. Of course, Iocaste is only trying to find out what Oedipus and Creon were quarreling about. She has never seen or heard them argue before and is disturbed that her husband and brother have parted as enemies.
Ignoring the pleas of the Chorus to remain silent, Oedipus tells Iocaste that Creon must have hired that “damnable soothsayer” to make false accusations against him. Surprisingly, Iocaste is delighted to hear this news. She tells Oedipus to set his mind at rest. She can offer proof that soothsayers shouldn’t always be taken seriously. When Iocaste finishes her story there is a moment of stunned silence. Oedipus suddenly demands to know where and when Laios was killed. He is strangely frightened by Iocaste’s response that Laios was killed a short time before Oedipus came to Thebes, at Phokis, where the road divides the towns of Delphi and Dahlia. Imagine the anguished look on Oedipus’ face as he tries to understand the story he just heard. A shadowy memory crosses his mind; he senses that something is wrong. He suddenly cries out:
Does he already understand the connection, or is he just unsettled by vague fears? Either way, from this point on Oedipus, is obsessed with the specific details of Laios’ death. He demands to know what Laios looked like, and what his features were like. When Iocaste tells him that Laios was similar in height and weight to himself, Oedipus trembles with fear. Something is stirring his memory. Perhaps he is recalling the “curse” he had pronounced on the murderer of Laios in the previous scene. He admits as much, and more when he says that he himself “maybe accurst / By my own ignorant edict,” and that he is “not sure that the blind man can not see.” Perhaps Teiresias really was speaking the truth.
. The servant had escaped and returned to Thebes several months after the murder of Laios. But when he saw Oedipus on the throne, for some reason the servant begged Iocaste to send him away from the palace. She did so without question, and the servant left for the wild frontier to live out his life as a shepherd. Again, Iocaste’s innocent information triggers an urgent response from Oedipus. He insists that the shepherd be brought to Thebes immediately. Iocaste hesitates. Perhaps she’s simply upset by Oedipus’ reaction; perhaps she, too, is beginning to sense that these stories all fit together in some disastrous way. You might even wonder whether Iocaste knows more than she’s telling, to protect herself or Oedipus. The mystery has mushroomed, becoming a complicated tangle of details to unravel. And the characters’ tense, anxious reactions only impress on you how much they have at stake here.
Now it’s Oedipus’ turn to tell a long story. At last you learn about his life before solving the riddle of the Sphinx and becoming king of Thebes. Oedipus says he was born in neighboring Corinth. His father was Polybos and his mother was Merope, wealthy citizens of Corinth. He recalls that one night at a feast, a drunken friend of the family blurted out that Oedipus was not his father’s son. Although he was still a young child, Oedipus was troubled by the accusation, as probably any child would be; he spent hours thinking about what the man had said. As he grew older, lingering doubts remained about his parentage. Finally, when the suspicions and doubts built up into an obsession, Oedipus left his parents and went to Delphi to consult the oracles about his birth.
When he heard this prophecy, Oedipus fled Delphi and vowed never to return to Corinth to tempt the oracles’ prediction. Oedipus tells Iocaste that as he was wandering along the road to Thebes he met a hostile band of travelers at the crossroad near Cithaeron. One of the men- who resembled Iocaste’s description of Laios- struck Oedipus on the head as they passed. Infuriated, Oedipus picked up a club and struck the old man with such force that he died. Although the old man was paid back, Oedipus was so furious at the insult he also attacked the other men in the band- killing them all, he thought, with savage blows of the club. When his anger ceased, Oedipus continued his journey to Thebes. It was there that he met the Sphinx, solved the riddle, and was named king. His marriage to Iocaste soon followed, and he saw it as a reward from the gods for his courage and wisdom.
At the conclusion of his story, Oedipus recoils in horror at what he himself has said and admits to Iocaste. At this point, Oedipus finally acknowledges that he must be the murderer of Laios. He is, therefore, the cause of the plague (notice he uses the same word “defilement” that the oracles used in telling Creon what caused the plague). The original problem is solved, then; but before you can even think about whether Oedipus should exile himself, you are urged on by a host of other unsettled questions growing out of the original mystery. What is this prophecy about Oedipus? Whose son is he? What happened to Iocaste’s baby, and why did the shepherd beg to leave Thebes when he saw Oedipus Sophocles uses this moment to slow the action of the play so the audience can consider these questions. Just as Oedipus pauses to pray to the gods to exile him from Thebes, the Chorus moves toward the audience to speak.
The Chorus begs Oedipus not to flee Thebes, reasoning that he should hear the shepherd tell his story of the murder of Laios before assuming any guilt. Apparently, the Chorus is still somewhat on Oedipus’ side. Perhaps his mood has changed, from anger to personal concern, and the Chorus’s sympathy shifts back toward him, forgetting his rash banishment of Creon. Taking heart from the Chorus’s speech, Oedipus suggests a possible “happy ending” for himself. He reasons that if the former servant, now living as a shepherd, can prove that Laios was killed by a gang and not by a single man, then Oedipus still could be innocent. He’s immediately persuaded by his own argument and is anxious that the shepherd be sent for at once. This moment may revive your hope to avert tragedy, but it’s an ironic hope. This shepherd’s news will reveal more than Oedipus bargains for.
Iocaste is uneasy, unwilling to pin everything on the shepherd’s story. Somehow her reluctance sharpens your fear that his answers will not be comforting. She tells Oedipus that the shepherd is now an old man and can’t possibly remember the details of the murder. Furthermore, the shepherd has already told everyone that Laios was killed by a gang, so he isn’t going to change his story and now say Laios was killed by a single man. Further, she protests loudly, the shepherd couldn’t show that Laios’ death fulfilled the oracles’ prophecy, because Iocaste’s anxiety may show her weakness and confusion, or it may show her love for Oedipus, rising to a desperate pitch.
Oedipus rejects Iocaste’s views, saying that even though she may be right, the shepherd is the only man alive who can shed any light on the circumstances of Laios’ death. Iocaste reluctantly agrees, and a servant is sent to bring the shepherd to Thebes. Oedipus and Iocaste retreat to the palace to wait. The Chorus moves toward the audience to sing the next choral ode. The scene began with a confident and arrogant Oedipus having complete faith in his innocence and righteousness. Now Oedipus suspects that he may have been guilty of the murder of Laios. He is less sure of himself; his pride and self-confidence are shaken. But he’s still hunting down the truth, while Iocaste watches fearfully. Imagine their moods as they disappear into the palace. You turn to the Chorus, to mull over what has just happened.
ODE II. The second choral ode explores some of the moral questions raised by Iocaste in the preceding scene. The Chorus debates the nature of the prophecy and the role that oracles play in interpreting the will of the gods. As the Chorus chants, its tone is solemn, expectant, and quietly reverent. There are frequent images that suggest “holy law,” “sacred wood,” and “holy things.” In the first strophe, the Chorus pleads with the gods to provide some moral direction. It prays for strength to help maintain the “laws of the pure universe.” It is puzzled by the “ways of right,” and needs guidance in unraveling the mysterious oracles and prophecies.
After the Chorus addresses the gods, it turns its attention to Oedipus. First, it criticizes him as a tyrant. Then it punishes him for his pride. Finally, it speaks of his recklessness. The Chorus is displeased with the actions of the king, and yet it prays that the gods will protect him because he is the “wrestler for the State.” You see that Oedipus may have human faults, but his failures will have a greater impact because he is the king. A second strophe continues the moral argument, stressing that the “holy laws” of the gods must be preserved above all. The Chorus openly condemns haughtiness and the “high hand” of all those who abuse the power they wield. The Chorus predicts- ominously- that anyone who questions the gods will be “caught up in a net of pain.”
The Chorus then solemnly turns to address the audience, saying that some will lose faith in the oracles and prophecy, but the faithful will stand steadfast in their religious beliefs. Finally, the Chorus predicts that those who deny the oracles and prophecy are ignorant of the ultimate truth of the gods. The second choral ode raises several important issues. First, the Chorus tells the audience that if the holy oracles and prophecy are proved wrong, then the gods themselves may be suspect (this would be an earth-shaking concept for the Greeks). Second, the Chorus tells the audience that anyone who questions the holy oracles and prophecy should be doubted as well. Third, the Chorus tells the audience that men are blind to the truth of oracles and prophecy because they no longer have faith in the gods.
Can too much of a good thing be bad? Where does one draw the line at how much is enough and what is over the top? Oedipus relentless drive to uncover the truth and Sigmund Freud s persistence to interpret dreams are both fueled by their unwavering determination and sheer pride. It is pride that promotes their self-confidence to follow their own instincts rather than listening to others. Both Oedipus and Freud are driven by perseverance to come to what each considers a proper conclusion to their challenge. It is their arrogance that leads them to ignore the consequences that their own actions have caused. Paradoxically, without their overconfidence in their own ability, neither would have ever discovered the truth.
Sigmund Freud, as well as Oedipus, does not listen to the advice of others nor popular beliefs, instead, they strive to discover the truth by following their own intuition. Freud believes that “(His) presumption that dreams can be interpreted at once puts (him) in opposition to the ruling theory and in fact to every theory of dreams ” (Freud 128). Yet, this does not deter him from striving to find what he feels is the correct way to interpret dreams. He continues his quest to discover the true meaning of dreams until he has solved the riddle. Oedipus emulates the same desire to discover the truth on his own rather than listening to others. After Teiresias reveals that Oedipus is in fact Laius s murderer, Oedipus tells him, “Off at once / Out of our sight! Go! Get whence you came.” (Oedipus 430-431).
Oedipus does not want to hear what Teiresias has to say, instead, he prefers to discover the truth on his own rather than have Teiresias hand it to him. In order to solve the mystery on his own Oedipus sends for the shepherd so that he can inquire as to the actual events of the murder (Oedipus 765). Neither Oedipus nor Freud listen to others’ opinions and attempt to learn the truth on their own accord. Freud and Oedipus are determined not to quit their causes until they attain a self-satisfying conclusion. Freud is unwavering in his quest to discover the true meaning of dreams. It is Freud s arrogance, brought on by his intelligence and his drive to interpret dreams, that even though “(He) felt tempted to follow the path marked out by Breuer, in spite of every difficulty, till a complete explanation was reached.” (Freud 133).
Despite the difficulty Freud encounters while reaching what he considered a satisfactory conclusion, he does not deter from his goal by using the thoughts of his predecessor. This same drive and perseverance can also be seen in Oedipus. Once Oedipus hears that the only way to save Thebes from the plague is to avenge the murder of Lauis, he vows, “I will begin again; I’ll find the truth. / The dead man’s cause has found no truer defender ” (Oedipus 131-132). Oedipus takes on the task of finding the murderer himself with complete unwavering determination. Oedipus goes on to say, “Nothing I / Will leave undone to find the man who killed / The son of Labdacus ” (Oedipus 263-265). Oedipus is determined to solve the mystery of who killed Lauis and he will let nothing stand in his way.
Along the way of discovering the truth of Lauis murder, Oedipus begins to learn that his parents are not who he thought they were. When Jocasta tries to persuade Oedipus to stop looking into the mystery of his birth, Oedipus tells her “You cannot move me. I will know the truth.” (Oedipus 1065). Oedipus is steadfastly devoted to his quest for knowledge despite any personal ramifications it may have. Freud, as well as Oedipus, are focused to reach what each considers a proper conclusion to their challenge no matter what challenges they experience along the way. Due to an overabundance of pride, neither Freud nor Oedipus is willing to accept the consequences of their respective actions. Freud learns that one of his patients, Irma, is not recovering from an ailment she had come to him, and he does not want to accept responsibility for not completely treating her infirmity.
When he first learns of the problem Freud believes that he ” was not responsible for the persistence of Irma s pains” (Freud 151). Later, when he dreams about Irma and her problem, he “was wishing that there had been a wrong diagnosis; for if so, the blame for (his) lack of success would have been got rid of.” (Freud 142). In Freud s dream, he is “not responsible for the persistence of Irma s pains, but that Otto was.” (Freud 151). Freud is passing the responsibility of Irma s pains to Otto, rather than admitting that he is the one actually at fault. In Freud s own analysis of his dream, he concludes that he ” was not to blame for Irma s pains since she herself was to blame for them by refusing to accept (his) solution.” (Freud 152). Freud blames everyone from Irma to a fellow doctor rather than accepting that he might have not properly cured Irma of her condition.
This lack of concern for the consequences of one’s actions can also be seen in Oedipus. After Teiresias proclaims it is Oedipus who murdered Laius, Creon wishes to inquire as to the validity of Teiresia’s statements. Oedipus says, “Ask what you will. You ll never prove I / killed him” (Oedipus 576-577). Oedipus is not open to believing that the man he killed could have been Lauis. Despite the consequences that result, both Oedipus and Freud are too proud of themselves to concede fault in their actions. An overabundant amount of pride is necessary to reveal the truth, for without their arrogance neither Oedipus nor Freud would have ever reached their conclusions. Freud believes that “(He has) been taught better. (He has) been driven. (He) must affirm that dreams really have a meaning and that scientific procedure for interpreting them is possible.” (Freud 132).
It is his arrogance in his intelligence that makes him believe that he is superior to all others, and only he can discover the true meaning of dreams. If he was not as confident in his ability, Freud would have simply accepted the popular theory and never thought to question it. Oedipus is just as overconfident in his ability to discover the truth as Freud is. The people come to Oedipus looking to him to save the city from the current plague, “For it was (Oedipus) who came and set (them) free / From the blood-tribute that the cruel Sphinx / Had laid upon our city We all entreat you on our bended knees, / Come to our rescue, whether from the gods / or from some man find the means to save.” (Oedipus 41-46). The people hope that since Oedipus was able to single-handedly save their city from the Sphinx, he will be able to put an end to the plague.
Oedipus accepts the challenge to save the city from the plague and boasts of his previous achievements. “I knowing nothing, put the Sphinx to flight, / Thanks to my wit no thanks to divination.” (Oedipus 397-398). Oedipus was able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx and triumphed over all others. He believes that he is above the gods, for he believes he is defying his fate, and he was able to save the city of Thebes. The overconfidence in their own intellect that both Oedipus and Freud possess is essential in discovering the truth. Driven by steadfast determination and pride, Oedipus discovers the truth of his birth parents as well as solves the mystery of Laius murder, while Sigmund Freud s perseverance yields a new way to interpret dreams.
Oedipus and Freud both strive to uncover the truth on their own without outside assistance. Neither will be satisfied until what they consider to be a proper conclusion has been reached. However, their own conceit leads them to disregard the consequences of their own actions. But without being haughty of their own acumen, neither Freud nor Oedipus would have discovered the truth. Arrogance is one’s ability is necessary when striving to prove the validity of a new theory, or when trying to learn the truth about events that no one else has been able to solve. Before undertaking a task, one must first consider what risks are you willing to take.
Oedipus, in solving Lauis murder and saving the city of Thebes from the plague, brought about his own downfall. Don’t discredit others’ advice but take it with a grain of salt. Tiresias gives Oedipus the insight he asks for, even though Tiresias is correct, it is not what Oedipus wants to hear. However, if Freud had listened to popular beliefs, he would have never come to his own conclusion as to the true meaning of dreams. Set your sights on a goal and do not rest until it has been achieved. See it through, don t give up even when the odds are against you, and don t settle for half reached conclusions.
A minor character is a character that is developed in such a way to help reveal themes and depict certain literary devices. Literary devices are used in mostly all literary works, as they can help reveal pertinent information and also move the story along. In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the minor character of Teiresias is responsible for foreshadowing Oedipus fate, developing the theme of blindness, and also illustrating dramatic irony. Teiresias uses his fortune-teller abilities to foreshadow the anguish and destruction that Oedipus will encounter after he learns the truths of his life.
Teiresias is also responsible for further developing the theme of blindness by using his own physical blindness to reveal to Oedipus his mental blindness. Lastly, Teiresias is ultimately responsible for imposing dramatic irony because of his great knowledge of the truth of Oedipus. In Sophocles Oedipus Rex, the character of Teiresias is developed in such a way that he utilizes many dramatic devices in order to reveal information and move the play along. Like a fortune-teller, Teiresias is able to see the fate and destruction of Oedipus life. Teiresias uses his great ability to reveal to the reader the downfalls in Oedipus life that will soon occur because of his quest to know his fate. The character of Teiresias demonstrates the use of foreshadowing in order for the reader to be aware of Oedipus fate.
You can not see the wretchedness of your life, Nor in whose house you live, no, nor with whom. Where are your father and mother? Can you tell me? You do not even know the blind wrongs that you have done them, on earth and in the world below. But the double lash of your parent’s curse will whip you out of this land someday, with only night upon your precious eyes. Your cries then where will they not be heard? Sophocles, 403-410This passage foreshadows the destruction and misery that will be a part of Oedipus’ life soon. Teiresias also foreshadows the self-mutilation and destruction of Oedipus.
The following quotation clearly displays the use of foreshadowing by Teiresias, with only night upon your precious eyes. Sophocles, 408-409 The preceding quotation foreshadows the self- destruction that Oedipus will commit because of the blindness that he holds towards his past and his fate. Teiresias explains to Oedipus that even though he can physically see now, in the future he will be blinded because he has learned the truth of his life. Teiresias clearly utilizes foreshadowing to illustrate the downfalls that will occur in Oedipus fated life. Teiresias further develops the theme of blindness in Oedipus Rex. Teiresias is a blind man who can actually see the fated outcome of Oedipus life. Even though Oedipus has full use of his physical vision, he is completely blind to his past and his fate.
Teiresias uses his own physical blindness to make Oedipus aware of his own mental blindness towards the truths of his life. Teiresias reveals to Oedipus that it is Oedipus physical sight that deters him from seeing the truths of his past. The proceeding passage illustrates the theme of blindness as revealed by Teiresias to Oedipus. Listen to me. You mock my blindness, do you? But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You can not see the wretchedness of you life Sophocles, 400-403 This quotation clearly depicts the development of the theme of blindness, as Teiresias is telling Oedipus that even though he can see physically he is blinded by his quest to know the truth of his life. Teiresias tells Oedipus that he cannot see the torment that is a part of Oedipus life.
Teiresias reveals to the reader that to see physically does not mean that you can see mentally, as Oedipus clearly displays towards his past and his fate. Dramatic irony is used to provide the reader with some relief, perhaps comical, through the use of knowledge from one character or even the reader that another character is oblivious to which, in turn, creates an ironic situation or atmosphere. Irony is displayed throughout Oedipus Rex and is ultimately displayed by Teiresias. Teiresias, who is completely blind physically can still see the wretchedness of Oedipus life. On the other hand, Oedipus, who has complete use of his sight is totally blind to his past and his fate. The extent of Oedipus mental blindness is assisted by his ongoing quest for the truths of his life which end up ruining him. It is ironic that a man who is blind physically can see the suffering and madness that will come to Oedipus in the future due to his ongoing drive for knowledge.
A blind man, who has his eyes now Brother and father–the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband the very same who came to his father s bed, wet with his father s blood. Sophocles, 442-448 This passage contains Teiresias revealing his knowledge of Oedipus past to him. Oedipus has just learned the truth of his past from a man who cannot see which becomes very ironic to the reader. It is at this point in the play where Oedipus learns that knowledge or sight of his past brings evil, pain, and suffering into his life. It is quite ironic that a man of such a physical disability can still use his mental vision to see the truth and fate of Oedipus. The irony is by Teiresias many times in this play. It is especially evident when Oedipus and Teiresias are first speaking to each other.
I say that you live in shame with those dearest to you. You can not see the evil. Sophocles, 353-354 Teiresias informs Oedipus of the evil that is seen within his life. Teiresias’ words said to Oedipus are extremely ironic because even though Teiresias cannot see physically he says he can still see the evil within Oedipus life. It is also ironic that Teiresias foreshadowed the self-mutilation of Oedipus after he learns the truth of his past and fate. It is ironic that a man who once did not see the truth of his past and fate does not want to see physically because of his great suffering. What were her ornament, and raised them, and plunged them down straight into his own eyeballs, crying, No more, no more shall you look on the misery about me Sophocles, 1236-1239 Since Teiresias had revealed to Oedipus his past, Oedipus has now found the truth of his life and now that he can see mentally, he cannot endure the suffering that the truth has brought upon him.
It is quite ironic that Teiresias, who revealed to Oedipus the truth of his past is blind physically and now that Oedipus has learned the truth, now blinds himself physically because he cannot endure the pain and suffering that his quest for the truth has brought upon him. Teiresias clearly displays the use of dramatic irony within the play. In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the minor character of Teiresias is responsible for foreshadowing Oedipus fate, developing the theme of blindness, and also illustrating dramatic irony. These literary devices used by Teiresias all help contribute to and depict the pain and suffering that is endured by Oedipus. Teiresias applies his knowledge of Oedipus to revealing certain things to the reader and also to other characters in the play.
Teiresias is responsible for foreshadowing to the reader the destruction and evil that will be evident in Oedipus life once he is aware of the truths of his life. Teiresias also aids in developing the theme of blindness by using his physical inability to reveal to the reader and Oedipus the extent of his quest for knowledge and the evil that it will bring upon his life. Lastly, Teiresias is responsible for demonstrating dramatic irony by using his physical blindness to ultimately reveal to Oedipus his mental blindness. Many people in society today are blind to their past and how the outcome of certain events affect them. Some of these people think that the only way to conquer this blindness is to seek out the truths of their past in order to lead a more fulfilled life.
Example #4 – Is Oedipus a Tragic Hero?
Answer this question demonstrating specific understandings of the concepts of Tragedy and the Tragic Hero. In the Greek play, King Oedipus was written by Sophocles, certain characteristics, which determine the traits of a tragic hero, reveal themselves as the play unfolds. These traits enable readers to enjoy a more enhanced reading of the play and also serve to evoke a particular response from the reader. Readers acknowledge that King Oedipus is a tragic hero because he is an important and influential man. He isn’t just looked up to because he s the king; he is genuinely admired and respected by the people of Thebes who come to seek comfort and advice from Oedipus, the wisest in the ways of the gods.
This is demonstrated in the opening of the play when King Oedipus appears and is concerned about what his people are worried about. Readers acknowledge King Oedipus wisdom and love; I would willingly do anything to help you. Through this quote, readers respond favorably towards this character as readers are aware that King Oedipus actually genuinely cares about his people and Thebes as he steps down from the throne and makes the effort to correspond with the people and get to the bottom of the dilemma. King Oedipus can also be classified as a tragic hero because he is not perfect but most certainly has tragic flaws, one of them being excessive hubris and
self- righteousness and he refuses to believe anyone who doesn’t agree with himself. This is evident at the beginning of the play when Teiresias and Oedipus are debating about who killed Laios. Hence readers are aware through the following quote, Do you think you can say such things with impunity that King Oedipus has a strong passion for the truth and high moral standards. As the play progresses further, King Oedipus hubris becomes more prominent as he is determined to find out about his birth no matter what the cost is. Oedipus search for the truth leads him to the discovery that he is t a child of luck but, a man of misfortune which of course horrifies him as he learns that at birth he was nailed to the top of a mountain top and was considered to be of low standing social class.
King Oedipus pride seems to be more injured as he went to such great depths to discover the truth only to discover that he was born of low class. As far as readers are concerned from the beginning of the play Oedipus is conveyed as leading a relatively happy and normal life because readers are only provided with limited information. But as the play progresses and readers are made aware that Oedipus was actually the murderer of his father, Laios, and that Oedipus married his mother not knowing. Readers, therefore, acknowledge that Oedipus has broken the most sacred of moral laws. Readers anticipate that some form of punishment will be in store for Oedipus whether it is death or exiled. Readers are aware that Oedipus may have human faults, but his failures will have a far greater impact because he is the king so therefore readers respond in a sympathetic manner towards the character Oedipus.
Even though he pursued knowing his birth readers feel pity towards him as they feel that it was Oedipus choice to know the truth but his excessive pride got in the way and therefore he committed an error in judgment and must then suffer the consequences of his actions. Oedipus evokes pity and terror from readers. Readers are well aware that Oedipus is powerful as he is described as a tower of strength and has a penetrating way of looking at people. He is often quick-tempered and acts impulsively and, sometimes violently. Therefore when readers learn of him gouging out his eyes a feeling of disgust yet pity is projected towards Oedipus because his sight is lost, all because he wants no one to look on him as the murderer of his father and the husband of his own mother.
Readers also respond in a sympathetic manner towards Oedipus as he has been stripped of his political power and exited as a pitiful soul when he decides to exile himself from Thebes. Readers, therefore, feel that Oedipus misfortune is far greater than he deserves. Readers once again feel sympathetic towards the character Oedipus towards the end of the play as Oedipus finally recognizes and accepts the oracle’s prophecy as it was predicted when he was born. Readers acknowledge the wisdom that Oedipus gained from his suffering when he prays to the gods for forgiveness.
The play, King Oedipus moves the readers to experience some sort of fear from the play that has just been read in the way that readers recognize the possibilities of error in their own lesser, fallible selves. Readers also anticipate that a tragic hero must learn a lesson from his errors in judgment, his tragic flaw, and become an example to the audience of what happens when great men fall from the high social class. The concept of tragedy is most certainly evident throughout the play as well. The tragedy which took place in Oedipus the King moved the readers by capturing suffering and pain and therefore learning a moral lesson from seeing a nobleman with high social class suffer especially since Oedipus learned a lesson from the pain that he experienced. Readers put themselves in the character
Oedipus place and feel as if they too have gone through the same events for themselves and learned the same lessons firsthand. Tragedy exalted Oedipus as an individual by exploring his place in Thebes by inhabited forceful forces and by showing how important Oedipus can be in the face of insuperable odds. When Oedipus gouged out his eyeballs so that he could no longer see, readers acknowledge that this is a form of a tragic character. Tragedy tended to punish Oedipus with a punishment out of all proportion to sin allowing readers to feel that Oedipus is being crucified for all of our sins too.
Finally, the tragedy in Oedipus the King encouraged the readers to be passionate and most certainly quite emotional as readers too felt like they were experiencing everything that all the characters were. In conclusion, the concepts of tragedy and the tragic hero in the play Oedipus the King convey certain characteristics that enable readers to enjoy a more enhanced reading of the play and also serve to evoke a particular response from the reader.
‘Oedipus the King’ is a play written by Sophocles in Ancient Greek at around 430 B.C. set in a fabulous past of ancient Greek. Throughout the play, the king is determined to understand several issues about the community and himself. As a result, he seeks help from the Theban chorus; Tiresias, the blind prophet; Creon, his brother-in-law; Jocasta, the Oedipus wife, and the shepherd. Throughout the play, conflict stands out as the main theme as exposited by exploring the three elements of conflict from the play viz. man versus man, man versus himself, and man versus nature.
A conflict exists between the king and the prophet Tiresias. The play begins with an investigation into the cause of death of Laius, the former Theban king. When the Oedipus King seeks advice from the prophet Tiresias to his surprise, the prophet tells him that Oedipus was responsible for the murderer of Laius. In disbelief, the King becomes annoyed with Tiresias and they end up in a heated argument. The king blames the prophet for accusing him of the murder (Sophocles 306). While the King maintains his innocence, Tiresias holds that the murderer of Laius is a Theban citizen with whom they have a blood relationship. The manner in which Tiresias leaves the palace evidence unhidden conflict between him and the Oedipus King.
In addition, the king is in conflict with his brother-in-law, Creon. When the prophet accuses Oedipus of the murder, the king blames Creon for masterminding the accusations. The king believes that Creon is determined to undermine him. As a result, the king calls for Creon’s execution. Another conflict exists between Jocasta and the prophets. Jocasta believes that prophets are liars and the king should take none of their advice. “Listen and I’ll convince thee that no truth in these prophets” (Sophocles 316). This quote reveals that Jocasta does not believe in prophets anymore. There is also conflict between the king and the shepherd. When the shepherd refuses to give information on the murder, the king threatens to execute him.
Theban community is in conflict with nature. Oedipus king is determined to fight the plague, which has affected the community. As Sophocles indicates in Creon’s conversation with the king, the leadership of the Theban community is investigating the cause of the plague: “Let me report then all that god declared. King Phoebus bids us straightly extirpate Fell pollution that infests the land, and no more harbor an inveterate sore” (Sophocles 315). From this quotation, it is clear that the people of Theban are determined to fight to the end of the plague that runs through the community. As illustrated in the first scene, the priest and the Theban choir have also visited the palace to seek aid for the plague. The king gives them hope by noting that “but I grieve at once both for the general, myself and you” (Sophocles 267). To grieve in ancient Greek meant cooperation with the suffering. Plague is a natural disease and therefore fighting it evidences this kind of conflict.
The king is in conflict with himself. The community expects exemplary behavior from their king, especially in such an ancient setting. As the play illustrates, the king killed his father and slept with his mother. The king’s behavior is in conflict with the character of Oedipus king. It is therefore vivid that the king is in conflict with himself. The shepherd is also in conflict with himself. Once requested to come and testify on the murder of Laius, he agrees and in fact, provides some information to the king; however, after some time, he begs to leave without further questions (Sophocles 300). This illustrates the shepherd’s conflict with himself.
The major conflict arises when the prophet accuses Oedipus of the murder of the former king. Since the entire play revolves around the murder, it is, therefore, justifiable that conflict is the major theme in the play ‘Oedipus the King’. King’s conflict with the prophet and Creon illustrates man versus man conflict while the community’s battle with the plague evidences the man versus nature conflict. The king’s behavior is in conflict with what is expected of him thus underscoring the man versus man conflict.
Example #6 – Oedipus the Irony
In Sophocles’s Oedipus The King, Oedipus’s life was set for him. He learned through the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, that during the span of his life that he would kill his father and marry his mother. He was obviously concerned about this. Laius also received the same Oracle from Apollo. Laius, the King of Thebes, was also worried by this prophecy. They both tried to stop their destiny and change the future. They believe that they were powerful enough to control everything around them. Ironically, these two strangers meet and Oedipus kills Laius and marries Laius widow. Then in order to stop the plague that hits the city, Oedipus needs to find the murder of the former king of Thebes.
He even curses the murder and demand that he speaks up. Ironically, it is no other than himself. He also warned by his wife/mother Jocasta not to continue the search for the killer. He does not listen to her, and in return, he discovers the horrible truth. Which costs Jocasta her life. He also says that he will go easy on the man who will turn himself in for the murder of Laius. But, ironically the punishment that he gives himself is far worse than anyone else would have received. This great play is filled with many cynical parts throughout. But the irony is what makes this play such genius.
When Laius got his Oracle of Apollo from Delphi (that his son would kill him and marry his widow), he tried to control faith by having his baby boy killed. He had baby Oedipus bounded and pierced by the feet and left on the mountainside for dead. The baby was given to King Polybus, ruler of Corinth. Polybus took care of Oedipus like one of his own. Oedipus even believes that he was Polybus’s son. Then Oedipus received the same Oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother. He tried to fight faith by leaving Corinth, so he could not kill Polybus (who Oedipus thought was his real father). Both men tried to fight faith yet they instead themselves directly to their destiny. Because on Oedipus’s journey away from the Kingdom of Corinth, he meets up with his true father, Laius, and killed him.
Fulfilling the first part of the Oracle. So even in trying to stop faith, they instead fell straight into it. Ironically, in trying to escape killing his father (whom he thinks is Polybus) he kills a complete stranger (his real father, Laius). I believe that in these two men trying to fight faith, they lead themselves to it. Instead of stopping the Oracle send to them, they stepped right into it. Even when they knew the future they were unable to stop it. Unknowingly, Oedipus killed his father Laius. They both thought that they were able to control their own destiny, but in the end, they walked right into it.
After killing Laius, Oedipus journeyed into the kingdom of Thebes (his home town). Being a wise man, Oedipus saved the city of Thebes by solving the riddle of the Sphinx, which was terrorizing the people of the city. As his reward, Oedipus went on to become King of Thebes and marry Jocasta widow of Laius. Thus fulfilling the second part of the Oracle of Apollo. Then a great plague swept the city. Oedipus learned from Creon (Jocasta brother, Oedipus uncle) that the only way that the plague would end if Laius murder was found, “Creon: Banish the man, or payback blood with blood./ Murder sets the plague-storm on the city”(Oedipus the King, 113-114). So the king went on a search through the city for the murder of the former king of Thebes (unknowingly himself).
“Oedipus: if anyone knows who murdered Laius,/ the son of Labdacus, I order him to reveal/ the whole truth to me”(Oedipus the King, 254-256). Then he calls for Lord Tiresias, who is a prophet of Apollo. Tiresias does not want to tell Oedipus the truth, because he knows that it will cause a great disturbance in the kingdom. But Oedipus insists that Tiresias tell what he knows. “Tiresias: I say you are the murderer you hunt”(Oedipus the King, 413). Ironically in calling out for the murderer of Laius, he is indeed calling out his own faith.
I believe that in trying to find the assassin of Laius, Oedipus is sealing his own faith. By searching for the murderer, he going to uncover something more horrific than he can even imagine. He learns that he did complete his destiny that the Oracle of Apollo has set for him. Jocasta tries to bring reassurance to Oedipus that could not have killed Laius. “Jocasta: still, my lord,/ he could never make the murder of Laius/ truly fit the prophecy. Apollo was explicit:/ my son was doomed to kill my husband”(Oedipus the King, 942-945). She also tries to ensure Oedipus that Oracle of Apollo was wrong because Polybus has died not at the hands Oedipus. “Jocasta: This is the man that Oedipus feared for years,/ he fled him, not to kill him – and now he’s dead”(Oedipus the King, 1036-1037).
Oedipus fills much better about this, “Oedipus: all those prophecies I feared – Polybus/ packs them off to sleep with him in hell!/ They’re nothing, worthless”(Oedipus the King, 1063-1064). The irony for all this is that Oedipus is relieved because he thinks that the Oracle was false because he did not kill Polybus. But he never two and two together and relies on that he is the son of Laius, not Polybus. And that he did actually fulfill the Oracle of Apollo. Jocasta knows that Oedipus should stop his search for the truth, but Oedipus would not listen to her. She begs her husband/son to let chance take precedence over his need to find the truth. She knows that the truth discovered will rip apart everything in their lives. “Jocasta: What should a man fear? It’s all chance,/ chance rules our lives./ Live, Oedipus,/ as if there’s no tomorrow!”(Oedipus the King, 1069-1070, 1077-1078).
Oedipus discovers the truth that he did kill his real father then marry his mother. He relies on that the Oracle has come true. This is too much for Jocasta to handle and she kills herself. Ironically, that was Jocasta’s last day on earth. Oedipus is overwhelmed by what he has discovered. So he blinds himself by putting his own eyes out with the long gold pins off of Jocasta’s clothing. This is very ironic. Because he was willing to pardon any who admitted the crime and just have them exile from the kingdom. Yet he was much harder on himself than he would have been on anyone else. He cries out, “You,/ you’ll see no more the pain I suffered, all the pain I caused!”(Oedipus the King, 1405-1406)
The ironies of this play a just brilliant. They allowed the play to move on with such amazing beauty. The irony of Laius and Oedipus trying to fight faith, yet instead walking right into it. If either one of these two decided not to control their faith the story would have never been able to take place. The irony of Jocasta warning Oedipus not to continue his search for the murder, which leads to her committing suicide. Just like all the other ironies, that all served a purpose that keeps this story alive.
Example #7 – Oedipus The Perfect Tragic Hero
When there is the mention of a hero in literature, the image of a tall, strong man on a pure colored horse, with a sword drawn and the shield held up, crying out to his men the honor and good they will bring in defense of their homeland, may come to mind. This, though, is not the image Sophocles gives to Oedipus, yet Oedipus is considered a true hero. Even if he is not depicted as a great war hero or one who does some great deed to the benefit of humanity, he is the image of the perfect tragic hero, having normal, imperfect qualities, yet facing the consequences of his actions with dignity.
Oedipus’ personality is clearly demonstrated throughout the play. The first quality he shows is his love toward his people: “I grieve for you, my children… And while you suffer, none suffers more than I.” Yes, there are moments when Oedipus turns to rage, such as when he is accused by the blind prophet, Teiresias, as the killer of the former king, Laius, or when hears from a drunkard that Polybus is not his real father. But he cares about his people so much, he digs relentlessly to find the truth, even after he realizes the killer is himself.
He also seeks the truth, never hiding anything he knew, nor covering up what he had done in the effort to save his own life. After Jocasta tells him what was said to her about the death of Laius, Oedipus remembers what had happened in his travel to Thebes and immediately tells it to his wife, even though the story puts the blame of Laius’ death on him. Then afterward, a messenger declares Polybus the false father of Oedipus and tells him of his past. Jocasta realizes where this is headed and tries to make Oedipus stop, but Oedipus insists on learning the truth. Despite the repeated warnings from the shepherd that was brought in, Oedipus finally learns the complete truth. Oedipus’s perseverance to find the truth leads to the punishment he himself pronounced. Instead of hiding his sins, like many probably would have done, he faced the consequences of his actions. He accepted them without a single whimper, and for that, he is the perfect tragic hero.
Oedipus is the tragic hero and main character of Sophocles’ play. He is the cause of many deaths and sufferings, whether directly or indirectly inflicting them. At the start of the play, Oedipus is depicted as a loving king, taking good care of his people and doing whatever he can to ease their pains. After realizing his mistakes and suffering the consequences, he became even more humble and kind, but with a weak spirit and mind. He had a short temper and flared out with suspicion and distrust. This occurred first when Teiresias accused him of killing, and later when Oedipus suspected both Creon and the blind prophet of plotting against him. However, throughout the whole play, one aspect of his personality was clear: his endless ambition to find the truth. Even when it finally dawned on him that he truly was the son and killer of Laius and the son of his wife, he just had to gather the last piece of the great puzzle to satisfy himself.
Jocasta is the wife of Oedipus, but also, with such ironic cruelty, his mother. She breaks up the quarrel between Oedipus and Creon and later assures Oedipus he is not the killer of Laius. Jocasta is very incredulous. She had learned about the fate of her newborn son and had sent the poor child to die. When the story is told that Laius was killed by robbers, she stops believing all that the prophets and oracles say, since her son did not kill his father as prophesized, and so she uses this line of reasoning to comfort Oedipus. However, Jocasta suddenly becomes a hypocrite, turning completely around and presenting herself in front of the temples of the gods, especially Apollo’s, in an effort to calm Oedipus down.
Creon is the brother of Queen Jocasta and, unfortunately, both brother-in-law and uncle of Oedipus. He was sent to the oracles at Delphi to try to find out what had to be done to rid Thebes of the plague. He was accused by Oedipus of trying to overthrow him when he declared Oedipus the killer of Laius. Creon is usually calm and quiet. When he and Oedipus had the heated argument over who killed Laius, Creon calmly reasoned with him, saying he was quite comfortable where he was, influencing the rule while being relieved of all the responsibilities of kingship. Creon was very kind and forgiving toward Oedipus after he suffered the emotional shock of Jocasta’s death and the physical shock of his self-inflicted blindness. He listened to Oedipus’ requests for the care of his daughters and eventually the final one of exiling him from Thebes.
Teiresias is the blind prophet who denounces Oedipus as the killer of Laius. His qualities are characteristic of all prophets: he has a potent knowledge of the future, thanks to Apollo and his oracles, and denounces others in an almost indifferent attitude. He simply says Oedipus himself is the killer and then unemotionally listens to Oedipus’ raging accusations of plotting against him and his throne. He prophesies that Oedipus will be turned blind, carry a stick around with him, and be cast off from the land a beggar, which, of course, turned out to be true. The Greeks loved irony. They were especially fond of dramatic irony, which is the kind of irony where the audience knows more than the characters do. The audience came into the theater knowing the play, due to the myths and legends that circulated throughout their culture. Still, this did not detract from enjoying the play, since the audience would often find themselves at the edge of their stone benches.
The first hint of irony was given when Creon returned from his mission to see the oracles at Delphi, apparently bringing good news to Thebes: in order to get rid of the plague, all they had to do was find the killer of Laius and banish him from the land. The audience knows this is not actually good news, at least not to Oedipus, since he is the killer. However, the first true example of dramatic irony was when Oedipus pronounces the punishment for whomever the killer of Laius was. Since no one had come forward as the killer, Oedipus assures his people he will pursue the investigation of Laius’ death “as I would fight / For my own father,” but the audience knows Laius really was his father.
Later, after Jocasta stops Creon and Oedipus’ bickering, she asks the chorus what happened. They reply, “Ask not / Again; enough our stricken country’s shame. / To let this other rest / Where it remains, were best,” in other words, “Don’t ask anymore. There might be some problems later.” Yet Jocasta followed her husband’s wishes to see the shepherd, only to find out he was the one whom her son was given to. In an attempt to help Oedipus in his quest for truth, Jocasta goes to the holy temples of the gods. She asks Apollo to save them from the curse. Apollo, though, was the one who prophesized Oedipus’ fate of killing his father and marrying his mother. Apollo certainly was not going to improve matters for Jocasta or Oedipus.
The Grecian plays of Sophocles’ time observed three basics unties, in order to enhance the use of irony: the unity of time, the unity of setting, and the unity of character. Oedipus Rex was no exception. Oedipus Rex observed the Unity of Time by only portraying the play’s events within a day. The history behind Oedipus’ birth is not in the play itself since it is assumed the audience already knows it. The play continues uninterrupted throughout. Toward the end of the play, Creon mentions “the sun above us,” perhaps still indicating there is still light outside.
The Unity of the Setting is clearly shown. All scenes occur in front of the King’s Palace. The people of Thebes gather there at the start of the play, and even the temples where Jocasta goes are found right outside the palace doors. When Oedipus was summoned to hear the messenger’s news he came out through the doors of the palace instead of leading them inside. The attendant goes outside from the palace to describe what had just taken place inside to the chorus, who represented the people of Thebes. In the end, Oedipus is not immediately sent away from Thebes. Instead, he is led into his own home, the palace.
The most obvious use of the three unties was the Unity of Character. Oedipus, and only Oedipus, is the sole main character. The whole play revolves around him. If it were not for him, there would not be a play, if any less was not possible. Even if he was not the main character, at least his personality had to be used. It was his ambition for the truth that led him from one thing to another into the final realization of his mistakes. Furthermore, it was his acceptance of the consequences that made him a tragic hero.
Example #8 -Fate And Fate In Oedipus The King
From birth, Oedipus, the Tragic Hero of Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex has been destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Although by the opening act of the play, Oedipus has already earned the throne of Thebes for solving the riddle of the sphinx, the greek hero is unaware that he has already fulfilled the prophy. Meanwhile, the people of Thebes are dying of a plague that will only end when the murderer of Laius, the previous Theban King, is punished. Through retrospection, Oedipus believes that he might be responsible for Lau’s death and is told that the King and Queen of Corinth who raised him were not his biological parents.
In this passage, Jocasta, having already discovered the truth that she is both Oedipus’ mother and wife, warns Oedipus to go no further in his path for self-knowledge. But Oedipus ignores her warning and calls for the Shepherd, to learn more about his mysterious lineage. This passage suggests that Oedipus’ downfall is not the product of fate but of his own free will. Sophocles employs characterization, word choice, and irony to reveal how free will has led to tragedy.
To start, Sophocles uses characterization to reveal the role that free will has played in Oedipus’ destiny. After the chorus leader ominously warns Oedipus about what he might uncover about his birth, Sophocles’ dialog for Oedipus states “Let it burst! Whatever will, whatever must!”(19). Although words such as “will” and “must” are typically indicators of fate, the passive verbiage in this clause is indicative of Oedipus’ stance on his involvement with his own tragedy. Oedipus sees himself as allowing events to play out in their natural order or as fated.
However, Sophocles’ presentation of Oedipus as a character reveals that he is the driving force of his tragic discovery after sending for the Shepherd and ignoring the warnings of both Jocasta and the chorus. Furthermore, as Sophocles’ dialog continues, Oedipus reveals, “I will never see myself disgraced”(26). Oedipus’ pride in himself regardless of the class he was born into has led him to ignore Jocasta’s warning believing that she will be dismissive of him if he was born into low social standing.
Example #9 – A Mythological World of Oedipus
In the mythological world of Oedipus the king, the truth is rarely pure and never simple. The motif of the truth is expedited in the theme of the willingness to ignore the truth throughout the drama, through characters trying to unveil the truth about the murder of Laius. In the opening of the drama of Oedipus the king, the town of Thebes, has an unsolved murder case without any evidence. Oedipus adventures for the truth after discovering the murder of the previous king, Laius. Believing he is capable of controlling every situation he encounters, Oedipus stresses, “I heard that too, but no one saw the killer” (319).
Oedipus is dubious about the identity of the murderer. As a result, Sophocles successfully validates human beings’ lack of power in controlling every situation and not being able to hide the truth. Later on in the drama, When Oedipus and Jocasta begin to get close to the truth about Laius’s murder, in Oedipus the King, Oedipus fastens onto a detail in the hope of exonerating himself. Jocasta says that she was told that Laius was killed by “strangers,” whereas Oedipus knows that he acted alone when he killed a man in similar circumstances. This is an extraordinary moment because it calls into question the entire truth-seeking process Oedipus believes himself to be undertaking.
Both Oedipus and Jocasta act as though the servant’s story, once spoken, is irrefutable history. Neither can face the possibility of what it would mean if the servant were wrong. This is perhaps why Jocasta feels she can tell Oedipus of the prophecy that her son would kill his father, and Oedipus can tell her about the similar prophecy given him by an oracle (867–875), and neither feels compelled to remark on the coincidence; or why Oedipus can hear the story of Jocasta binding her child’s ankles (780–781) and not think of his own swollen feet. While the information in these speeches is largely intended to make the audience painfully aware of the tragic irony, it also emphasizes just how desperately Oedipus and Jocasta do not want to speak the obvious truth: they look at the circumstances and details of everyday life and pretend not to see them.
Example #10 – The Quest for Truth in Oedipus Rex
Frank Kermode writes in his book The Genesis of Secrecy “We are most unwilling to accept mystery, what cannot be reduced to other and more intelligible forms. Yet that is what we find here: something irreducible, therefore perpetually to be interpreted; no secrets to be found out one by one, but Secrecy” (143). Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex illustrates Kermode’s distinction between secrets and Secrecy by showing how the seeker of truth taints the discovery of any secret with his/her presuppositions and interpretation. Both Oedipus, the main character of the play, and the audience pursue the answers to Oedipus’ past but find a reflection of their own presumptions in place of the truth. Oedipus exhibits the natural fallacy of human reasoning when confronted with secrecy: to project one’s own conclusions and narrow-mindedness onto the answer.
Through the play, the audience leans that pursuing secrets one by one with the tools of human intellect leads to the frustration of Secrecy in general: there is no truth available to humans that were not in some part self-invented. Oedipus’ attempt to discover the secrets of his past blinds him to the truth and proves that humans do not have the capability to disclose any absolute answers. At the beginning of the play Oedipus learns of the murder of King Laius and vows to avenge his death, saying “Upon the murderer, I invoke this curse / . . . may he wear out his life / in misery to miserable doom!” (line 246). The irony of this passage in which Oedipus curses himself to a fate that he must suffer shows that he already has certain expectations concerning the mystery of the murder. Yet Oedipus’ reaction is sensible and natural to the reader and one can not find fault with his reasoning at this point in the play.
Though it is reasonable to assume that human logic is a tool for solving problems, Oedipus’ rational thought process actually causes him to move further from the truth. In this sense, our human intelligence prevents us from finding any answers that we have not tainted by our own inferences. While humans generally take each mystery as a separate problem to be solved there is in fact a more general sense of Secrecy that will always prevent us from finding truth in a pure form. Though Oedipus thinks he has discovered the truth about his past he is still frustrated and confused with the gods and the ultimate answers concerning his miserable life. Oedipus continually bemoans his fate to the gods, saying “Take me away, my friends, the greatly miserable, / the most accursed, whom God to hates / above all men on earth!” (line 1344). Despite the many answers he finds to satisfy the immediate secrets surrounding him he feels further from enlightenment than before his quest for knowledge.
He questions the gods and the purpose of his fate but never once considers whether he actually committed the crime. His presuppositions not only bring him further from uncovering the truth of his past but also prevent him from actually understanding his fate or the purpose of his life. Oedipus has such faith in the answers he compiles from a variety of dubious sources that he violently stabs his eyes upon discovering the story of his sins. One can partly attribute his irrational trust to the many conjectures and presumptions he makes in the evolution of the plot. The same intelligence that won Oedipus his royal position now causes his downfall and inevitably prevents him from discovering any pre-determined truth about his past.
Sophocles not only demonstrates how human intellect and logic blinds Oedipus to the truth but how the same intellect used to interpret literature can prevent the reader from finding answers. Within the story, Sophocles subtly develops two plausible explanations for Oedipus’ past. Small details from the play discount every witness and piece of evidence, allowing for the possibility that Oedipus was framed. For example, Teiresias the prophet accuses Oedipus of murder only after Oedipus angers him. In addition, the sole witness to the murder was unclear and could only remember that “the hands that did the murder / were many” (line 121). The play can be interpreted as a conspiracy against Oedipus or as a tragedy of Oedipus’ unintentional sins, but both arguments have weak points. The reader is left to wonder why Sophocles confuses the plot with these otherwise trivial details.
The interpreter will never know Sophocles’ original intent despite attempts at retranslating the play or rethinking it in a new context because these attempts would only mirror the interpreter’s own presumptions. Sophocles purposely allows for more than one interpretation of his work to exhibit to the audience their own natural weaknesses when confronted with a secret. In this sense, the reader is in the same position as Oedipus, whose every effort to find answers leaves him with a reflection of himself. Interpretation becomes another form of disclosing secrets and is therefore perpetual as no original meaning, or Secret, exists to be found.
However, in casually observing the play there seems to be no mystery or secrecy for the audience and only the characters within the story are the “outsiders” to the riddles that Sophocles has created. Because Oedipus is a common and well-known story most readers are familiar with the characters and either know the ending or can make obvious conjectures. The play has less suspense for the audience and instead contains many examples of tragic irony and double meanings because of their knowledgeable viewpoint.
Despite the central theme of secrecy in the play, Sophocles lets the audience feel like “insiders” by giving them the knowledge that Oedipus does not have. This allows for many instances of tragic irony, as when Oedipus says of the murderer in the opening scenes of the play, “For when I drive pollution from the land / I will not serve a distant friend’s advantage, / but act in my own interest” (line 137). The seemingly well-informed audience can almost pity Oedipus, who creates a double meaning in this line by unintentionally renouncing himself. The many examples of irony allow the reader to feel like an omniscient insider to the secrets that frustrate Oedipus. But with this comfortable viewpoint, the audience casually accepts Oedipus’ guilt by jumping to conclusions and disregarding the small clues that point to other possible discoveries.
Because Sophocles contradicts himself and offers two different interpretations, the answers to the play’s secrets are misleading and the reader must also suffer from the mystery of the play. Though the audience enters the play with apparently more knowledge than Oedipus has, overlooking details and jumping to conclusions force audience members into Oedipus’ position of ignorance. The audience does not feel that they are along with Oedipus on his quest for answers but are instead sympathetic towards him because they have already figured out the riddle. This is the key distinction between individual secrets and all-encompassing Secrecy: though the audience feels superior in their knowledge of Oedipus’ secrets, they are truly just as disillusioned as Oedipus and just as far from holding any real truth.
Even though the audience believes they are insiders with the answers to all the secrets, they unwittingly become outsiders by paralleling Oedipus’ quest for the truth and finding their own preconceived notions instead. In searching for the truth behind individual secrets both the audience and Oedipus suffer confusion and frustration. Sophocles manipulates Oedipus by showing him his own foolishness when confronted with secrecy. The irony and double meanings in the play show the audience the faults in Oedipus’ search for the truth and the impossibility for him to ever find answers to his past.
However, Sophocles develops a much more subtle argument in the play to exhibit the hopelessness of humanity’s desire for the truth. Because Oedipus Rex includes many easily overlooked details, the play evolves into something much more mysterious and complicated than is superficially obvious. By craftily allowing the audience to jump to conclusions about Oedipus’ past, Sophocles shows us the absurdity of our demand for absolute answers. We realize only too late that we have been in Oedipus’ position for the entire play and that we have mimicked the very characteristics that we pitied in Oedipus.
But instead of taking the play as a lesson and leaving it with a sense of experience, we walk away with a feeling of hopeless ineptitude. Oedipus Rex does not outline a way for humans to better solve secrets or even offer a preventable fault that we could overcome in order to disclose the full truth. Instead, we realize with frustration that it is our nature to insert our own presuppositions and logic into an answer; no secret exists whose disclosure is not a mirror image of the discoverer, and in the end, Secrecy is eternal and inescapable.
Example #11 – Seafaring Imagery in Oedipus the King
Sophocles makes frequent use of seafaring imagery in his Oedipus the King, creating new perspectives from which to view its characters and cities. Oedipus tells the story of a king undone by a lack of faith in prophecy, the king of a people in need of spiritual rescue. Arrogant Oedipus is reduced to a wretch of a man as his awful marriage to his mother is revealed, but his city is saved in proportion. Seafaring imagery recurs throughout Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, primarily in the manifestation of Thebes as a ship and Oedipus as its helmsman; this reveals important themes of spiritual decay, Oedipus’ arrogance and blindness, and the inescapability of fate.
Early in the play, Sophocles establishes the metaphor of Thebes as a ship. The audience finds the once-stable city plagued and on the brink of destruction. “King, you yourself / have seen our city reeling like a wreck / already; it can scarcely lift its prow / out of the depths, out of the bloody surf,” a priest tells Oedipus at the outset. Sophocles sees Thebes as spiritually bankrupt. Thebes the ship, then, is lacking in structural integrity, and threatens to collapse and sink. Sophocles describes Thebes’ situation: “Our sorrows defy number / all the ship’s timbers are rotten; / taking of thought is no spear for the driving away of the plague.”
The vessel’s foundation of spirituality weakens at two crucial junctures, first at the hands of Oedipus and then Jocasta. When Oedipus summons Teiresias to reveal the identity of Laius’ murderer, the prophet speaks in riddles, angering Oedipus; the argument boils until he lobs this salvo: “[The truth] has no strength / for you because you are blind in mind and ears / as well as in your eyes.” This is the king’s rejection of the old man’s ability to know the future. In insulting Teiresias, Oedipus insults the gods by extension, for it is they who have given blind Teiresias the ability to interpret the past and predict the future like no other man. Jocasta also contributes to the spiritual emptiness of Thebes further weakening the structure of the ship when she denies prophets’ ability to speak for the gods:
Why should a man fear since chance is all in all for him, and he can clearly foreknow nothing? Best to live lightly, as one can, unthinkingly. As to your mother’s marriage bed, don’t fear it. Before this, in dreams too, as well as oracles, many a man has lain with his own mother. But he to whom such things are nothing bears his life most easily. Oedipus and Jocasta’s rejection of spirituality signals similar emptiness in the city as a whole. Thebes will continue to suffer, the god’s decree, until Oedipus pays for his transgressions.
The episode in which Oedipus insults Teiresias reveals a fundamental problem of Oedipus’: the arrogance and blindness (which, from the perspective of his insult match with Teiresias, is ironic) that will ultimately lead to the discovery of his true nature and his downfall. Oedipus’ stubborn refusal to acknowledge any opinion contrary to his own and denial of his true identity which, in light of emerging evidence, becomes increasingly indisputable steadily reduces his authority as captain of the ship of Thebes. Confidence in Oedipus-as-helmsman erodes as the tale of Laius’ death intertwines with Oedipus’ personal history.
The similarities that result for example, that Jocasta bound her son’s feet and that the name “Oedipus” refers to his own feet being bound aggregate until they mutate from coincidences to proofs that Oedipus has fulfilled the prophecy and killed his father and slept with his mother. The leap (from funny coincidences to irrefutable proofs) is not large (the perceptive audience will make it long before Oedipus does) and the king looks foolish and stupid for not realizing the awful truth. A ship cannot sail if its passengers do not believe in their captain. This weaker, incompetent Oedipus is the opposite of the capable, confident man who helmed the city at the start of the play. “If you will rule this land, as now you rule it, / better to rule it full of men than empty,” the priest warns Oedipus.
“For neither tower nor ship is anything / when empty, and none live in it together.” That the chorus never exits the stage in the course of the play that Oedipus is constantly surrounded by his subjects reminds us that what happens to him personally has ramifications for the city as well. Thus, while Oedipus is learning the nature of his relationship with his mother and becoming a wretch of a man, the ship of Thebes is losing its helmsman. Oedipus’ blindness conjures images of a ship at sea without instruments, its captain refusing to use the stars for navigation, allowing the weather (fate) to toss it unpredictably about. Oedipus’ loss of control stands in stark relief to his image in the opening lines of the play powerful, purposeful, so in tune with his subjects that he anticipates their needs; he was once able to deliver the city to safe harbors in similar times of hardship, as when he answered the riddle of the Sphinx and saved the city.
No longer. Ultimately, real control rests with fate and the gods. No matter how good a king Oedipus maybe, he cannot rescue Thebes from the plague (i.e., find a safe harbor) if the gods do not consent. “It is murder guilt / which holds our city in this destroying storm.” The imagery of Thebes’ plight as a storm holding a ship hostage relates to a final theme of Oedipus the King: the inescapability of fate. Oedipus was aware of his fate and attempted to avoid it, and for this, he was punished.
Seafaring imagery recurs throughout Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, most notably in the manifestation of Oedipus as the helmsman of Thebes the ship; this reveals important themes of spiritual decay, Oedipus’ arrogance and blindness, and the inescapability of fate. Reconciling the play’s conclusion with the seafaring perspective yields an interpretation of Oedipus’ blinding as repair and rescue. The plague has been lifted, and the strength of the Theban “timbers” builds as the city is restored to harmony with the gods. Oedipus, once blind to the truth but having literal sight, now has the opposite. The gods have been satisfied, and the city of Thebes has reached another safe harbor.
Example #13 – interesting ideas
I have to write an essay to prove that Oedipus Rex (from Oedipus the King) is a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s qualifications. I know he is a tragic hero but I need to include two quotes from the story for each qualification. I pretty much have the quotes for each qualification but I need a creative way to start the essay. She suggests we use a quote from the story or something that Aristotle said or any famous quote or something that just grabs people’s attention. Also, I need a good thesis statement but I’m not really sure what one could be. So please anyone who has any suggestions for an “attention grabber” for the introduction of the essay please respond and any ideas for a good thesis. Thank you so much!
Answer. You really need to write the thesis statement yourself because it needs to be about something from Oedipus Rex that inspired you. If one of us writes it, your teacher will know very quickly. Here’s what the professors in the Writing Program at the University of California at Santa Barbara have to say about writing these statements. Building a Thesis Statement. The heart of any essay is its thesis statement; the heart of any thesis statement is the subject-verb-object core of the main clause. Take the following steps to build your thesis statement from the heart outward.
- Build the core. Choose a noun (or short noun phrase) that describes the main subject of your essay. Make sure it covers the whole of your subject, but no more. Then choose a verb that describes both precisely and comprehensively what your subject does in your essay. Then choose a noun that is the main recipient of the action. Put the three together in that order. Your objective is to put as much information as possible in the core. For instance, here’s the core of a thesis sentence in an essay about Oedipus Rex. “Oedipus Rex explains fate.”
- Add to it. Add clauses or phrases to your core to make it a full, descriptive, and interesting sentence. You can add material before or after the core to concede something, to explain a cause and effect relationship, or to explain a consequence. For instance, here’s the Oedipus Rex thesis with material added before and after: “At first glance, Sophocles’ most famous play appears to make its hero the victim of circumstance; nevertheless, Oedipus Rex explains fate as a function of character, not fortune.”
- Sharpen it. Look for vague, weak, or otherwise unsatisfactory words, phrases, and clauses in your thesis and make them more specific through either substitution or modification. For instance, here’s the Oedipus Rex thesis sharpened: “Although Sophocles’ most famous play subjects its hero to deception, bad luck, and the crimes of his parents, Oedipus Rex nevertheless reveals fate to be primarily a function of character, not fortune.”
- Make your categories with keywords. Look at the key works in the sharpened version: “hero,” “deception,” bad luck,” “crimes,” “fate,” “character,” and “fortune.” The key words in italics are all potential sections for the body of the essay, especially if you design your thesis to analyze your subject according to defined categories. Not every thesis will list the main sections of your essay perfectly neatly, but almost every thesis will suggest useful divisions in your essay.
- Create a title by writing a noun phrase that contains a clear description of your subject and indicates something about your approach and thesis. “Sophocles’ Idea of Fate” isn’t bad, but “Sophocles’ Idea of Fate in Oedipus Rex” is better, and “Doomed by Character: Sophocles’ Idea of Fate in Oedipus Rex” is even better than that.
I have an essay about Oedipus Rex due tomorrow. Here’s the prompt: In Oedipus Rex, Sophocles uses minor characters to reveal traits of Oedipus. Write an essay analyzing the diction and detail used to reveal Oedipus’ personality. please help!
Answer. 1. Teiresias: Oedipus is nice and respectful to Teiresias, but quickly loses his temper when Teiresias refuses to speak. He considers it Teiresias’s duty to do all he can to help the country, and it can be surmised that Oedipus feels that way about himself as well. However, their conversation also shows some of Oedipus’s pride and almost scorn for the gods. When Teiresias speaks against Oedipus, Oedipus accuses him of conspiring against him for the kingship. Teiresias is the representative of the gods, and rather than doubt his ability to speak for the gods, Oedipus says that he has done as well without the gods’ help. 2. Creon: Much of the same, after Oedipus suspects Teiresias of conspiring, he assumes Creon was part of it.
I know the story, but what truly makes it a tragedy?
Answer. Oedipus thinks Creon put Tiresias up to say what he said. (“I charge you, then, submit to that decree you just laid down: from this day onward speak to no one, not these citizens, nor myself. You are the curse, the corruption of the land”. (Sophocles 833). He questions Jocasta about the party Laius was traveling with and he starts to think that he might have killed Laius, so he sends for the survivor of the party traveling with Laius to find out for sure if it was Laius he killed. Then a messenger comes from Athens telling them that Polybus is dead from natural causes.
Jocasta tries to comfort Oedipus by saying the curse could not be true if his father died of natural causes, but the messenger tells Oedipus that he is not Polybus’ biological son. The survivor was also the same man who took Oedipus when he was born to the woods. He confirmed that he was not Polybus’ son and he was Laius’ son. As these events occurred the audience begins to see that the curse has already come true. Oedipus confronts pity and fear to the audience. Pity starts rising when Oedipus was born and is sent away into the woods to die. The audience feels pity for Oedipus when he realizes that despite all his efforts the curse still came true. Pity also arises when Jocasta kills herself and after Oedipus gouges out his eyes.
Fear arises in the audience when Oedipus is talking to Tiresias. The audience knows that he is the cause of the plague, but fears that Oedipus is going to find out that he was the cause of the plague. As pity and fear occur throughout the play, it leads up to the catastrophe at the end of the play. Oedipus further fits into the definition of a tragedy because the play ends in an unhappy catastrophe. After Oedipus finds out that the curse has come true, that he really killed his father and married his mother. Jocasta kills herself and Oedipus gouge out his eyes. Oedipus was doing the deed, he cried out that his eyes should no longer be able to look upon his crimes; before, his eyes had seen those they should not have seen and failed to recognize those they ought to have recognized. Oedipus ends up being a great tragedy.
Can someone please explain Antigone and Oedipus the King? I looked up SparkNotes, and they gave me a different version. I’d prefer a long description, but brief descriptions are good too.
Answer. Oedipus the King: In this play, Oedipus’s kingdom, Thebes, is suffering from a plague. He sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to the Oracle at Delphi to find a solution to this problem. When Creon returns, he says that the plague will be over when the murderer of King Laius, their last king, is brought to justice. So Oedipus starts a search for the murderer. He asks Tiresias for anything he knows about the murderer. Tiresias refuses at first, but then Oedipus makes him tell the truth. Tiresias reveals that Oedipus is the murderer of the old king.
Oedipus refuses to believe him and accuses Creon of conspiring with Tiresias in order to win the throne. Oedipus’s stubbornness leads him to say that Tiresias is a bad prophet. Before Tiresias leaves, he says that the murderer of the king marries his own mother. When Oedipus is irritated by the accusation, Jocasta asks him what is wrong. When she hears of the prophecy, she tells him not to worry since all prophecies are wrong. She says that her own son was supposed to kill his father, so the son was taken out of Thebes to die. King Laius, his father, was killed by a band of thieves, not his son.
When Jocasta tells him that King Laius was killed at the crossing of three roads, Oedipus thinks that he may be the killer. He says that he came to Thebes because, when he was the prince of Corinth, he heard someone say that he was not really the son of the king and queen, and he wanted to find his parents. Soon, a messenger arrives from Corinth saying the Polybus, the king, is dead. Jocasta says this disproves the prophecy since Oedipus did not kill his father. The messenger, a shepherd, tells him that they were not his real parents and that he came to Corinth as an orphan. As Oedipus asks further, the shepherd reveals that Oedipus is the son of Laius and Jocasta. He was cast out because of a prophecy. Jocasta kills herself by hanging and Oedipus stabs out his eyes.
Antigone: Antigone is Oedipus’s daughter. She was supposed to marry Haimon, the son of Creon. At the beginning of this play, there is a was in which both of her brothers die. The one who fought for Thebes, Eteocles, is buried, but Polyneices is not. Antigone goes ahead and buries him regardless of Creon’s decree that anyone who buried him would be killed. When Antigone is caught burying him, she is taken to Creon, and he prepares to hang her. Haimon begs for her life but to no avail.
Tiresias tells Creon to bury him or else be cursed by the gods. Creon agrees. So that he is not blamed for Antigone’s death directly, he plans to entomb her alive, not hang her. Tiresias persuades Creon to let Antigone go, but too late. She has hung herself. When he goes to see, he sees Haimon near her, raving. Haimon tries to kill Creon, misses, and kills himself. Eurydice, Creon’s wife, kills herself because of grief. Creon is left alone to repent the consequences of his stubbornness.
Why did Oedipus kill his father? I don’t get it.
Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. In the most well-known version of the myth, Laius wished to thwart a prophecy saying that his child would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. Thus, he fastened the infant’s feet together with a large pin and left him to die on a mountainside. The baby was found by shepherds and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope in the city of Corinth. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy but believing he was fated to Polybus and marry Merope he left Corinth.
Heading to Thebes, Oedipus met an older man in a chariot coming the other way on a narrow road. The two quarreled over who should give way, which resulted in Oedipus killing the stranger and continuing on to Thebes. He found that the king of the city (Laius) had been recently killed and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the monster’s riddle correctly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king and the hand in marriage of the king’s widow, Jocasta.
Oedipus and Jocasta had two sons (Eteocles and Polynices) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). In his search to figure out who killed Laius (and thus end a plague on Thebes), Oedipus discovered it was he who had killed the late king – his father. Jocasta also soon realized that she had married her own son and Laius’s murderer, and she hung herself. Oedipus seized a pin from her dress and blinded himself with it. Oedipus was driven into exile, accompanied by Antigone and Ismene. After years of wandering, he arrived in Athens, where he found refuge in a grove of trees called Colonus. By this time, warring factions in Thebes wished him to return to that city, believing that his body would bring it luck. However, Oedipus died at Colonus, and the presence of his grave there was said to bring good fortune to Athens.