Were we to temporarily embrace the theories of Freud in our analysis of Oedipus Tyrannus and subsequent plays, we would find ourselves with an incestuous protagonist, so mad in his quest to power that he seeks to kill his father and will stop at nothing to achieve this. It is where Freud misconstrues the very essence of the play that the audience is intended to find its meaning. Were Oedipus aware of his actions throughout the course of the story there would have been no story. Never once was he in the conscious pursuit of his father’s death or mother’s marriage bed, and upon hearing of his own actions falls into crippling despair. The difference between what Freud theorizes of the King and what it is believed Sophocles intended of him, is the simple possession of knowledge, and the repercussions, both good and bad, it carries.
Oedipus, in his great glory, infinite wisdom and kind, genteel treatment of his subjects goes his entire life without making a decision for himself. His very existence has been set up by the Gods, a plaything, an example. Even still, he spends his life searching for answers, leaving home and using his extensive intelligence to eventually save a kingdom, of which he has no inclination is his own, and become a king. What possesses this man to follow the path of knowledge as it leads him from commonplace royalty to ultimate greatness and then to the darkest despair? Under the umbrella of human weakness it’s actually two traits that compel Oedipus to so gallantly follow the pursuit of knowledge, the sin of ego and the humanism of fear.
While these two personality traits don’t necessarily go hand in hand there are multiple instances where ego steams from fear or fear from ego. Throughout the story they become so entangled in one another that it becomes undeniably clear. Oedipus is afraid of not knowing himself.
The presence of the human ego, a trait of weakness so exploited by the Gods, can be seen when he defeats the Sphinx. Oedipus has something to prove. He has been informed that his childhood, all that he has ever known, was built upon a grand illusion. Whether or not he has evidence to sway the story it plants the seed of doubt in his mind. He is no longer sure of anything.
But the Gods take it further, when Oedipus declares that he will find the man who has killed Laius it is not without self-investment. He cannot fail a country that has made him their ruler on the basis of his intelligence in a test of wits. While he may not consciously understand why he feels so compelled to set the country right it...