Oedipus the King is an ancient Greek tragedy, written by Sophocles. Oedipus the King may be the best known work of Sophocles. Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, has been part of western literature for over twenty-four centuries. The main character Oedipus does not want to know his answers to his questions because he fears what they might entail. Oedipus tells Jocasta that it would have been better if she had let him die as a baby then at least this would have never happened. Oedipus’ tragic flaw is pride according to Aristotle’s “poetics.”(Aristotle) Oedipus goes along with everything that is told to him.
Oedipus even asks the towns people if he is a murderer and they say, “No.” Oedipus commits a series of tragic errors that result in his downfall. Oedipus was cursed by his father for being selfish because Oedipus thought he would be the one who killed Laios (his father) Oedipus did not know at this time was that it was actually Oedipus’ own ignorance and naivety which led to King Laios death; Oidipous had struck out blindly in anger against an enemy he did not recognize and ended up killing without knowing what he had done.(Eurpides: 1054-55)
Oedipus is a king of Thebes in Ancient Greece, who was set upon by the gods to be afflicted with the terrible fate he had unwittingly brought upon his own city. Oedipus unknowingly fulfilled an ancient prophecy that stated that if Oedipus were ever to know who both of his parents were then disaster would befall Thebes. Oedipus was abandoned in the mountains by his father, King Laius of Thebes, who had Oedipus’ ankles pinned together with a nail to ensure Oedipus would die from exposure in the high acropolis where Oedipus was left.
Oedipus was found by a local shepherd and taken back to Oedipus’ closest living relative, Oedipus’ uncle and guardian Polybus. Oedipus surmised that he did not know whose son he was but could perceive that Oepdius looked different than Polybus and Merope (Oidpius’ foster parents). When visiting the oracle at Delphi she revealed to Oidpius Oidpius was Oedipus’ true father, Oedipus wished to leave in order to escape the prophecy and Oedipus left for Thebes. Oedipus believed that his destiny would be realized itself in Thebes and Oedipus set out on a journey to find out who Oepdius was and what role Oepdius had in Oedipus’ life.
Oedipus traveled across the Greek countryside with little food or water until he came upon a shallow rock where three young men were fighting over which direction to go. Oedipus spoke up and shared with them that he had been all around Greece and knew it better than most, they agreed to travel together. Oedipus, Polyneices and Eteocles no sooner came upon the city of Thebes than Oedipus saved Oidpius from his own personal tragedy. Oedipus explained to Oidpius that King Laius had been killed with Oidpius’ infamous ankle nails driven into the back of his throat. Oedipus went on to explain that Oepdius now ruled as king in Thebes- ironically he now knew who both of his parents were (and even more ironically also learned what manner or personage had slain them).
Oedipus was wracked with guilt for this realization and sought punishment, Oedipus wished only for Oidpius to be Oedpius’ guide in Oedipus’ new life as Oidpius wished to leave Oepdius. Oepdius turned Oidpius down and Oidpius fled the city of Thebes, fated to return one day. Oidipous requested that Eteocles be crowned king of Thebes but Polyneices refused this request thus setting up years of bitter rivalry with his brother over Oediupus’ throne.
Oedipus fulfilled this criteria for he was a prime example of tragic hero. Oedipus, king of Thebes, unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother; Oedipus’ blindness symbolizes Oedipus’ lack of insight into himself.
The first question asked is who killed Laius? This is Oedipus’ friend’s, Teiresias’s first question to Oedipus. To answer this question Oedipus questions the townspeople to find out who might have killed the king to which no one knows the answer. Oedipus uses all his intelligence to solve this riddle by accusing anyone who may know something but each time Oediupis accuses someone Oedipus’ questions are answered with a “no.” Oedipus finally accuses the shepherd who had been present when Laius was killed, and Oedipus is able to solve this riddle.
The next question Oedipus asks himself is what terrible curse did he bring upon Thebes? Oedipus takes on the responsibility of solving this riddle as well so Oediups must first find out what plagued his father. After further questioning Oedipus comes to the conclusion that it was Apollo’s doing because Laius angered him by trying to take some of his priestly authority.
Oedipus then decides to go to Delphi, but on his way there he encounters another person on the road who looks suspiciously like Oedipus; Oedipus then screams out “I have made that murderer Oediups pay! I am the one who did it! Why do you still pursue me?” Oedipus believes that he has killed Laius, but in actuality Oedipus did not kill Laius because Oedipus was at Delphi when this act occurred.
At the end of the play after discovering Oediup’s true identity Oedipus exclaims “Oh horror! Look-at what I’ve done” because Oediups metaphorically murdered Oedipous’ father and married his mother. This is dramatic irony because Oedous could not see what he did not want to Oedious’ fate could have been avoided if Oedipus had known who Oediups really was, but Oedipus refused to even entertain the thought that Oedipus could be related to Oedipus.
One of Sophocles’ most famous quotes is “Oedipus Oidipodes!” which means “Oh infam-y! Oh infamous Oidiupids.” This quote is said when Oedipus finds out his true identity. It would be ironic for Oedipus to say this because it implies he does not know his own identity.
In conclusion Sophocles uses dramatic irony throughout Oedipus The King in order to fool the reader into believing Oedipus to be a king who knows his own destiny, but Oedipus is the exact opposite. Oedipus believes he is a normal man with no ties to Oedipus when in actuality Oedipus himself causes Oidupus’ death and downfall.