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Oedipus Rex Essay

1505 words - 6 pages

With its popularity equivalent to the modern day version of the tale of Snow White, the title character of the Greek tragedy of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King can turn iron-fists into timorous wimps. As an honorable king and a miracle worker, the positive attributes of Oedipus would have been worthy of taking into account had he not committed one of the greatest sins of human life – and yes, this was even worse than a verbal sin. Portrayed as the protagonist and villain, Oedipus’ situation was destined by the supreme will of the gods and any attempt to escape the evil that the gods intimidate him with would eventually fail, because his hubris towards his power and position would instigate more castigation from the gods.
Although he was unaware of what was to come, Oedipus does make an attempt in escaping from a part of his destiny that would eventually occur. He is allegedly the son of Queen Merope and King Polybus of Corinth, until a man tells him that he is not his father’s son. Curiosity creeps into Oedipus’ mind, so one day he sets out for Delphi. He receives an oracle from Apollo which says that he would “couple with [his] mother” (873) and “kill [his] father” (875). Disgusted and humiliated, Oedipus abandons Corinth – “running toward some place where [he] would never see the shame of those oracles come true” (878-880). Reaching a crossroad, Oedipus kills Laius, the king of Thebes; later on in the play, he tells his wife Jocasta: “And you, his wife, I’ve touched your body with these, the hands that killed your husband cover you with blood” (908-909). “Apollo told me once – it is my fate – I must make love with my own mother, shed my father’s blood with my own hands. So for years I have given Corinth a wide berth, and it has been my good fortune too,” (1090-1094) Oedipus informs the messenger of Corinth one day. Unaware that he has no blood relationship with any of the people of Corinth whatsoever, Oedipus unintentionally fulfills his prophecy by creating a consanguineous love between a mother and son. This is where dramatic irony comes to play. Oedipus thinks that he has killed a stranger, a king, the former husband of his wife and that he has escaped the impasse of his fate, since he is far away from his parents. The audience knows that Oedipus’ biological parents are Laius and Jocasta and that his oracle came all too soon; he kills his father during his running away and marries his mother after becoming a hero of Thebes. Had Polybus and Merope been Oedipus’ biological parent, Oedipus would have made a successful effort in averting his fate. However, the gods gave him ignorance so that he would not be exposed to the truth, and therefore, he would go wrong in his attempts of running from them.
Ever since he became King of Thebes, Oedipus regards his power and position honorably. There are some instances where he shows too much pride, especially in his intelligence. At times he takes his heroic act – saving the Thebans from the...

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