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Oedipus Rex Essay

1756 words - 8 pages

Ancient Athens of the fifth century B.C saw evolutionary developments in philosophy, science and the dramatic arts which provided citizens a very different perspective of life as it was. It was a patriarchal society which has been ruled by an Aristocratic system for hundreds of years which centred their ideals and beliefs not on individualism, but utterly the power of the gods. However in the Periclean Age , society’s devotion towards piety began to diminish as humanity started to examine the power of man’s achievements; an unorthodox movement led by the Sophists . It was thus the role of dominant Greek powers to re-establish the traditional pious values of their society. As a conservative ...view middle of the document...

Particularly through Oedipus’ dialogue with Creon, dramatic irony is further used to support this idea: “I never saw him [Laius].” “And where might he [the killer] be? Where shall we hope to uncover//the faded traces of that far-distant crime?” Sophocles, ceases the fact that audiences are already familiar with this story before the play, begins, to generate both dramatic irony and moral awareness in the audience and hence prompt them to recognise the errors Oedipus is making in the attempt to evade his fate, while also admiring his many exemplary qualities. Developed as the tragic hero, Oedipus serves as the central device to unite these conservative themes and ideas, which Sophocles establishes through his character and actions. In the opening scene of the play, “Children, new blood of Cadmus’ ancient line// I have not thought it fit to rely on my messenger, But am here to learn for myself…” demonstrates Oedipus as a man of action and persistence who represents many of the ideals of Athenian leadership, resembling the noble qualities of the contemporary King, Pericles . A contemporary audience would have admired Oedipus’ persistent search for the truth, but it is his presumed self-innocence (as part of his hubris ) that lead to his destruction. The consequences of his hubris present themselves at the end of Act IV – his hamartia ultimately elicits the power of fate pre-destined by the gods. To subvert radical thinking, audiences are positioned to Sophocles’ more conservative views on fate through the peripeteia and further in the anagnorisis of the play. As often seen in Greek tragedy, the fate of the tragic hero can be seen as a moral compass: Oedipus’ faults are lessons to be learned through the emotions of fear and pity experienced by the audience in catharsis . The catharsis begins when Oedipus blinds himself, “With golden brooches, which the King snatched out and thrust, from full arm’s length into his eyes.” This moment of emotional release is the climatic realisation of the power of divine fate.
Through Protagoras, the Sophists proposed the sacrilegious idea that the power of human ingenuity and reason is almost sufficient to rival the gods’ omniscience; whose very existence could be questioned. To end this blasphemy, Sophocles re-justifies the power and oppressive nature of the gods in his tragedy. The imperative application of the Chorus as a feature of tragedy reflects the conservative thinking of conventional beliefs and practices and was thus a crucial device that helped to explicitly reinforce the ‘correct’ attitude towards the gods. The Chorus’ humble greeting to Oedipus “The equal of Gods, but first among men”, deliberately justifies Oedipus’ status; below the gods, which reflects traditional piety and respect for the gods. In the parados :"deathless Athena! First, Daughter of Zeus// from the fire and pain of pestilence save us and make us sorrows beyond all telling, sickness rife in our ranks..” demonstrates the power...

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