Essay/Term paper: Oedipus the king
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Sophocles "Oedipus the King" is a tragic play which discusses the tragic discovery of Oedipus that he has killed his father and married his mother. The story of Oedipus was well known to the athenian"s. Oedipus is the embodiement of the perfect Athenian. He is self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed. Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his tragic discovery. Oedipus gained the rule of Thebes by answering the riddle of Sphinx. Sophocles used the riddle of the sphinx as a metaphor for the 3 phases of Oedipus" life and to futher characterized him as a tragic man.
The Sphinx posed the following riddle to all who came to obtain the rule of thebes: "What is it that walks on 4 feet and 2 feet and 3 feet and has only one voice, when it walks on most feet it is the weakest?" Oedipus correctly answered "Man" and became the king of Thebes. This riddle is a metaphor for the life of Oedipus. As a child man crawls on his hands and knees this is the four feet to which the Sphinx refers. Also man is at his weakest as a small child. He depends solely on others for his nourishment and well being.
Oedipus was the child of Jocasta and King Laius who was taken to the mountain by a shepard to be killed so the omen of the god apollo that Laius" son would kill him and lay with Jocasta would not come true. Oedipus was the weakest of his life at this point. If it has not been for the shepard spairing his life and giving him to Polybus to raise as his own Oedipus would have died.
Man walks on 2 feet when he has matured. This is a metaphor for Oedipus when he reaches adulthood and leaves Corinth to escape the oracle. Oedipus meets up with a band of travelers and in a rage kills them. Inadvertently Oedipus has killed his own father. Oedipus then answers the riddle of the sphinx and becomes king of Thebes. By becoming king of Thebes he marries Jocasta the Queen of thebes and his own mother. Many years later after bearing children with Jocasta a plague kills many of the inhabitants of Thebes. Oedipus is told by the gods to find the killer of Laius. He is very dilligent in the inquiriy and finally comes to the horrible truth that he himself is the murderer. Jocasta kills herself at the horrible realization that she has layed with her son and Oedipus puts out his eyes at finally seeing the truth. This fulfills the final part of the Sphinx"s riddle for Oedipus will have to walk with a cane for the rest of his life because of his blindness, this will give him the 3 feet which man walks with at the end of his years.
Oedipus used his intellect and diligence to answer the riddle of the Sphinx. Many of the most intelligent young men of thebes has been killed attempting to answer the riddle but Oedipus proved his intelligence superior to theirs. Oedipus uses the same intelligence and perseverence to find the killer of Laius. He does not give up his search even when Jocasta warns him to stop and let the matter rest. He calls the shepard and interrogates him till he discovers the horrifying truth that he is the killer. Oedipus" intelligence was ultimately his flaw. Also, if Oedipus had not had been as coarageous he would have have never ventured to answer the riddle of the Sphinx. Thus even though he had killed his father he would have never become king of Thebes and laid with his mother. In addition, if Oedipus had had the courage but not the intelligence the Spinx would have killed him for answering the riddle incorrectly. Sophocles used this to characterized Oedipus as a tragic man for he came about his tragic discovery not because of an evil act or an evil trait but because of the person he was. Oedipus traits which gave him riches and power ultimately led to his tragic ending. Also, the god apollo did not predestine that Oedipus would kill his father and
marry his mother by the oracle, he only stated what he knew was inevitable because of who Oedipus was.
The sphinx"s riddle was used by Sophocles to characterize Oedipus as a tragic man and as a parallel to his life. The riddle describes the 3 stages which Oedipus went through in his life. Also in answering
the riddle Oedipus inevitable brought about his own tragic ending by a horrible discovery.
Oedipus the King by Sophocles is more than just a plain tragedy. This play is a suspense thriller, where every character involved with Oedipus learned that fate is determined only by the gods. In this specific play, Apollo was deciding god that predicted the fate of every person in the city of Thebes. This book represents a symbol of the lives of many, showing that you can not run away from fate because it decision that will forever remain. It was written in the honor of, the god of theater, Dionysos. Also, for the annual festival where playwrights competed for prizes. It was a major public occasion, with immense attendance expected.
This theatric happening was written in the turning point of the war that saved Greece from a huge Persian invasion. The actual time period when this play was performed was not recorded. But, it was when mythology and tragedy in theatre became very interesting and popular to watch. There were two main settings. A town in main Greece called Thebes and another place called Corinth. At Thebes the play is mainly located in the exterior of Oedipus' palace at Thebes.
The main characters in this book are Oedipus, Tiresias, As the story progresses, however, Oedipus' power and pride are broken down. Some readers imagine a broken, pitiful old man who's been crushed by the avenging gods. From the script, it is clear that Oedipus is apparently handsome and well built. He is described as a "tower of strength," and has a sharp way of looking at people. He is quick-tempered, and often acts recklessly and violently. His followers love him, and consider him a brilliant ruler because he solved the riddle of the Sphinx and brought ease to the city of Thebes as Oedipus became their savior. Oedipus also shows wisdom, love for his children and a reputation for high moral standards. We"ve come to this conclusion because even when the threat, of whoever killed Lauis would suffer, applied to him he still followed through with the punishments. He has a passion for truth, and shows courage in the face of disaster or conflict. These same noble qualities, however, lead to his tragic flaw and brought upon his downfall. His wisdom became hypocritical, and he refused to believe anyone who didn"t agree with him. His love for his children becomes obsessive, and he refuses to see that he's married his own mother. His passion for the truth and high moral standards trapped him into a deadly quest for the murderer of Laius, which resulted in being him. The one trait of Oedipus that did not change in the course of the play, was his strength and courage in the face of disaster. Every step he took to solve the mystery of Laius' murder brings him closer to being revealed, yet he never stops searching for the truth. But his courage and strength help him endure the pain and suffering that come with knowledge of what he has done.
Tiresias is a wise, old man who has supernatural powers to interpret the past and predict the future. The fact that Tiresias is blind makes his imaginary abilities even more mysterious. This may also lead Oedipus to deny Tiresias' ability to "see" the truth. At first Tiresias refuses to answer Oedipus' questions about the prophecy. He appears as a character that was always a messenger for the gods. Therefore, when Oedipus insulted Tiresias, in the first scene, and accused him of being a false prophet. Oedipus, however, did not realize that he was also attacking the gods while he was attacking Tiresias. Although his appearance in the play was short, Tiresias sets the tone of the moral and religious beliefs of the gods. He was interrogated by Oedipus, yet, withheld the important information in which he was not to reveal.
Creon is Oedipus' brother-in-law and a trusted assistant of the king. He is also third in command of Thebes as a political leader. The Chorus mentions that he is an honest man who is reliable, trustworthy, and sensible. When Creon has returned from the oracles at Delphi was when he was first seen in the play. But honor is important to him- he is quick to defend his reputation and protest his innocence.
Jocasta is the wife of Oedipus and his mother. She was first married to Lauis but then her son killed him. Early in Oedipus the King we realized that she was trying to mediate between Oedipus and Creon when they quarreled. She appeared to us to be a kind, gracious, and caring wife. When Laius was murdered she asked her brother, Creon to share her rule of Thebes. Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx and became her second husband.
The second half of the book begins after a priest confronts Oedipus asking for his help. Oedipus needed to help the city from dying. Then, Creon, Jocasta"s brother, appears with a message. The message was an order from Apollo stating that "in order for the city to rid themselves from the plague, they had to punish the beings involved in the murder of King Lauis." Although there is arguing within this matter, Oedipus promises to solve this horrific mystery. Then the question arose, who could the murderer be?
Oedipus was talking to the chorus and at the same time trying to solve the mystery. Then, Tiresias entered the scene with important information that he withheld. He was insulted by Oedipus and told everyone that they were very ignorant. He knew whom the murderer was but refused to tell. He said that "what will come will come, even if I shroud it in silence" At this moment Oedipus was very frustrated and scorned Tiresias. This resulted in Tiresias yelling out who the murder was. It was Oedipus. But as unenlightened as Oedipus is, he refused to believe Tiresias. They verbally fought back and forth and insulted each other. Then, Creon enters the scene. And as the search continues, Oedipus and Creon get into a disagreement. Oedipus tells Creon that he is a traitor. Oedipus questions the messenger, and found out that the messenger had been herding sheep and had met a shepherd who had found Oedipus, had taken the baby, had taken the pin out of his ankles, and had given him to the king and queen of Corinth to raise as their own.
Oedipus says, "It's time to clear this up. Send for the other shepherd." Jocasta realized exactly what has happened. Jocasta begged Oedipus not to pursue the matter of searching for the murderer. Oedipus said he had to know only because the city was relying on him. Jocasta ran out horribly upset. Hours later, the other shepherd was brought in. He had already figured things out of why he was there, but pretended he did not remember a thing. Then, he begged the other messenger to also stay quiet. However, Oedipus insisted on the truth. It was revealed that Oedipus was the murder of Lauis, his father. Oedipus learned that long agoâ¦Jocasta and Laius crippled their baby and put it in the woods to end the prophecy before it began. Now everybody knew the truth. The baby of Jocasta and Lauis was Oedipus. He now realized that Creon and Tiresias were correct in their beliefs. Oedipus rushed out.
The next scene was an extremely graphic anecdote. Jocasta ran into the bedroom, screaming. She locked the door from inside. A few minutes later, Oedipus came in, and broke down the door with what seemed to be supernatural strength. He found Jocasta dead, hanging. Oedipus took the body down, and quickly removed the pin that held up her dress. He stabbed it again and again into his eyes, saying he has looked at his mother's naked body when he shouldn't have, and he has learned what he now wishes he had not. It was said that Oedipus had actually torn the globes from their sockets. Oedipus then begged to be taken out of the city of Thebes to end the plague. Yet he had no strength and no guide. Oedipus comes in. Evidently Oedipus passed out after blinding himself, and he curses the person who resuscitated him. The Chorus asks, "How were you able to rip out your eyeballs?" Oedipus replies, "Apollo gave me the strength to do it." Oedipus felt that any man who committed the crimes of which he commited should suffer greatly or be exiled. As you can see, Oedipus was a victim of fate and Apollo"s prophecy had been solved by the city of Thebes.
Which theme seems most important to you: the dangerous effects of
power, or the need for a nation to reform itself? In all three plays
you are repeatedly asked if Creon is a cruel or a fair ruler, a
cruel or a fair human being.
the plays trace the downfall of Oedipus from a position of wealth
and power to a position of despair and sorrow to a position of inner
peace. In the beginning Oedipus seems to be a child of fortune who
gained a kingdom by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. In the middle he
appears to have been irrevocably doomed by a prophecy before he was
even born. And by the end he has found a sort of contentment as he
dies with his beloved daughter Antigone by his side. Oedipus'
unforeseen reversal of fortune suggests we cannot accurately predict
our future- or escape our past.
The exact nature of fate, the uncontrollable forces that influence
us, is clearly shown in the role that the gods play in revealing the
truth of the oracle's prophecies to Oedipus. Although he does all he
can to live honestly and avoid the crimes prophesied for him,
Oedipus can't escape the relentless fate that pursues him. Creon tries
to manipulate fate in his favor, but he fails. Inevitably the oracle's
prophecies are fulfilled.
Oedipus' downfall symbolizes the spiritual bankruptcy of the
state. Sophocles meant this to pertain not just to the Thebes of the
play, but also to his contemporary Athens. The plague that begins
the play is viewed as a punishment from the gods, and only when the
sins of Oedipus have been punished and purged is Thebes restored-
for a time- to spiritual harmony. The loss of the city's spiritual
faith is seen in Oedipus' denial of Teiresias' power to predict the
future, and in Iocaste's refusal to believe in the ability of prophets
to speak for the gods.
Oedipus and Creon share the same tragic flaw. They refuse to
compromise or to humble themselves before others. They stubbornly
refuse other characters the right to express opinions different from
their own, and they abuse their power to force others to accept
their points of view. Oedipus is so arrogant and self-confident that
he even challenges the will of the gods. This leads directly to his
downfall, and he is harshly punished.
All the characters in the plays search for a final truth of some
kind to guide their lives. The most obvious search for truth is
Oedipus', but even the minor characters are looking for answers to the
meaning of life. The herdsman, for example, has waited many years to
reveal the truth of Laios' murder, and is finally given the chance
to tell his story when Oedipus summons him to Thebes. Even Iocaste
is given the opportunity to discover the truth of Oedipus' early years
before he became king of Thebes. The Chorus, too, is searching for a
truth- the moral lesson to be learned from Oedipus' tragedy. Teiresias
alone stands as a figure who can see truths hidden from all but the
Several characters are willing to sacrifice themselves to save
Thebes from destruction or for what they believe is right and just.
Creon, for example, is ready to die in order to save the city.
Teiresias offers to have himself killed when Oedipus suspects him of
betraying the trust of the sacred city of Delphi. Iocaste hangs
herself to save her honor. Oedipus blinds himself for murdering his
father and marrying his mother, but will not die until he has paid for
his sins, to save the city. Antigone dies because she insists on
giving her brother Polyneices a proper burial.
- Another theme is that suffering leads to wisdom and
self-knowledge. Although the ways of the gods are sometimes harsh
and cruel, Oedipus finally recognizes and accepts the oracle's
prophecy as it was predicted at his birth. You hear the wisdom he
gained from his suffering when he prays to the gods for forgiveness
and humbly asks for mercy at the conclusion of Oedipus the King.
The four themes in this play are religion, geographic influences, economic development, and society. The first of the four is religion. Religion was very substantial to the citizens in Thebes. They believed in many gods, which made them believe in Polytheism. An example of this was that they talked about more than one god in the play. They thought that each god had their own superiority. Like, Apollo, who was the god of the sun, was looked up to by many. People believed his prophecies and respected him. And like Zeus, who was father of the gods, was called upon Oedipus.
In addition to those two themes, the third one is economic development. One big economic deveoplemt was when Creon became king. When Creon became king the plague had vanished since the city had found the murderer of Lauis. This allowed crops and livestock to prosper along with jobs. Hopefully Creon could improve the cities condition and get them back on there two feet.
Last but not least of the four themes was the Society, which was very significant to the city. The society was the most important part because it was made up of gods. From the incident of Oedipus and the wrongdoing of Lauis and Jocasta the society of Thebes learned that fate cannot be maneuvered. They learned this the hard way by suffering the plaugue which was brought by Oedipus but caused by Apollo"s property. They controlled everything along with fate. Society included everyone. The men had the most important role.
Oedipus' search for the truth lead him to the discovery that he was not a "child of luck," but a "man of misfortune." His fate was determined years before his birth, as proven by the prophecy of the oracles. All he could do was live out his destiny, but he did this with such dignity and heroism. Oedipus showed great nobility even in suffering and despair. At the end of Oedipus at Colonus Oedipus pursued the truth to its horrible conclusion. Having blinded himself, Oedipus was a broken and shaken man. But he also became a model for people to imitate. He has shown what it means to endure in the face of defeat. He has shown what it takes to survive in a world that is ruled by unpredictable fate. He has shown the true meaning of suffering and despair. When you think of Oedipus, remember that he suffered for all of us, so that everyone can know the truth about ourselves in a world that will always be hostile and cruel.
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Aristotle considered Oedipus Tyrannus the supreme example of tragic drama and modeled his theory of tragedy on it. He mentions the play no fewer than eleven times in his De poetica (c. 334-323 b.c.e.; Poetics, 1705). Sigmund Freud in the twentieth century used the story to name the rivalry of male children with their fathers for the affection of their mothers, and Jean Cocteau adapted the tale to the modern stage in La Machine infernale (1934; The Infernal Machine, 1936). However, no matter what changes the Oedipus myth underwent in two and a half millennia, the finest expression of it remains this tragedy by Sophocles.
Brilliantly conceived and written, Oedipus Tyrannus is a drama of self-discovery. Sophocles achieves an amazing compression and force by limiting the dramatic action to the day on which Oedipus learns the true nature of his birth and his destiny. The fact that the audience knows the dark secret that Oedipus unwittingly slew his true father and married his mother does nothing to destroy the suspense. Oedipus’s search for the truth has all the tautness of a detective tale, and yet because audiences already know the truth they are aware of all the ironies in which Oedipus is enmeshed. That knowledge enables them to fear the final revelation at the same time that they pity the man whose past is gradually and relentlessly uncovered to him.
The plot is thoroughly integrated with the characterization of Oedipus, for it is he who impels the action forward in his concern for Thebes, his personal rashness, and his ignorance of his past. His flaws are a hot temper and impulsiveness, but without those traits his heroic course of self-discovery would never occur.
Fate for Sophocles is not something essentially external to human beings but something at once inherent in them and transcendent. Oracles and prophets in this play may show the will of the gods and indicate future events, but it is the individual who gives substance to the prophecies. Moreover, there is an element of freedom granted to human beings, an ability to choose, where the compulsions of character and the compulsions of the gods are powerless. It is in the way individuals meet the necessities of their destiny that freedom lies. They can succumb to fate, pleading extenuating circumstances, or they can shoulder the full responsibility for what they do. In the first case they are merely pitiful, but in the second they are tragic and take on a greatness of soul that nothing can conquer.
A crucial point in the play is that Oedipus is entirely unaware that he killed his father and wedded his mother. He himself is the cause of the plague on Thebes, and in vowing to find the murderer of Laius and exile him he unconsciously pronounces judgment on himself. Oedipus, the king and the hero who saved Thebes from the Sphinx, believes in his own innocence. He is angry and incredulous when the provoked Teiresias accuses him of the crime, so he jumps to the conclusion that Teiresias and Creon are conspirators against him. As plausible as that explanation may be, Oedipus maintains it with irrational vehemence, not even bothering to investigate it before he decides to have Creon put to death. Every act of his is performed rashly: his hot-tempered killing of Laius, his investigation of the murder, his violent blinding of himself, and his insistence on being exiled. He is a man of great pride and passion who is intent on serving Thebes, but he does not have tragic stature until the evidence of his guilt begins to accumulate.
Ironically, his past is revealed to him by people who wish him well and who want to reassure him. Each time a character tries to comfort him with information, the information serves to damn him more thoroughly. Jocasta, in proving how false oracles can be, first suggests to him that he unknowingly really did kill Laius, thus corroborating the oracles. The messenger from Corinth in reassuring Oedipus about his parentage brings his true parentage into question, but he says enough to convince Jocasta that Oedipus is her son. It is at this point, when he determines to complete the search for the truth, knowing that he killed Laius and knowing that the result of his investigation may be utterly damnable, that Oedipus’s true heroism starts to emerge. His rashness at this point is no longer a liability but becomes part of his integrity.
Learning the full truth of his dark destiny, his last act as king is to blind himself over the dead body of Jocasta, his wife and his mother. It is a terrible, agonizing moment, even in description, but in the depths of his pain Oedipus is magnificent. He does not submit passively to his woe or plead that he committed his foul acts in ignorance, though he could be justified in doing so. He blinds himself in a rage of penitence, accepting total responsibility for what he did and determined to take the punishment of exile as well. As piteous as he appears in the final scene with Creon, there is more public spirit and more strength in his fierce grief and his resolution of exile than in any other tragic hero in the history of the theater. Oedipus unravels his life to its utmost limits of agony and finds there an unsurpassed grandeur of soul.