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Arrogance In Oedipus And Cocteau's Infernal Machine

1360 words - 5 pages

Arrogance in Oedipus and Cocteau's Infernal Machine

    The myth of Oedipus dates back centuries. Overtime a myth changes in many ways as each author or orator presents their own version. The main plot usually remains intact, but authors add their own style to the tragic story. In the case of Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Jean Cocteau's Infernal Machine both authors focus on the arrogant nature of Oedipus. Since this quality ultimately has destructive powers, the relationships Oedipus has with other characters demonstrates this arrogance. Although, the two authors portray Oedipus in different ways to emphasize their different themes both use the relationship between Oedipus and Teiresias to demonstrate Oedipus' arrogant nature.

In both plays, this arrogance manifests in Oedipus' rejection of the prophet Teiresias. However, the two playwrights differ greatly in the relationship between these two characters. Cocteau's Oedipus immediately disrespects Teiresias' prophecy. This rejection of the prophecy and warnings of Teiresias emphasizes his theme of malevolent gods. Equivalently, in Sophocles' version of the myth, the denial of Teiresias demonstrates the main theme of the destructive nature of arrogance. Instead of the gods holding him back, Oedipus' own pride does not allow him to believe Teiresias. Oedipus believes that he is above everything and everyone. Just as in Cocteau, he even believes that he can defy the gods and disregard fate.

In Sophocles version of the myth, the denial of Teiresias does not occur right instantly. At first, Oedipus regards the prophet Teiresias in the proper, respectful manner. Oedipus greets him by exclaiming, "My lord, in you alone we find a champion, in you alone one that can rescue us."(Soph. O.T. 22) Oedipus recognizes the power and wisdom that Teiresias has to offer. He respects not only his insightful words, but also his divine knowledge from the gods.

Controvertly, in Cocteau's version of the myth, Oedipus does not honor the authority or power of Tiresias. Instead of respecting tradition, Oedipus wishes that Teiresias "pretend that you've already delivered your advice" (Cocteau, Infernal Machine, p.64). Although Jocasta informs Oedipus that tradition requires Tiresias to bless their marriage, Oedipus does not see the necessity. He has no need for the blessing of Teiresias because he feels that nothing can harm him. Even as Tiresias explains that the oracles are against him, Oedipus replies that "this is not the first time that the oracles have been against me, and I have outwitted them."(Cocteau, Infernal Machine, p.65) Oedipus' arrogance clouds his judgement so that he believes the gods do not represent a threat.

Similarly, in Sophocles version of the myth, Oedipus' relationship with Teiresias also has underlying feelings. The respect Oedipus has for Teiresias conjoins with a tone of desperation. A great plague threatens the survival of Thebes. Oedipus begs Teiresias to "save...

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