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 athenians. 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 Sphinxs 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 sphinxs 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. Weve 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 didnt 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, Jocastas 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 agoJocasta 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 Apollos prophecy had been solved by the city of Thebes.