Oedipus The King By Sophocles Essay

1536 words - 6 pages

Oedipus the King, a tragedy which was written by the ancient greek dramatist Sophocles, is often referred to as the perfect tragedy (McManus, 1999). According to Aristotle in his Poetics, in order for a story to be considered a tragedy, it must be realistic, evoke a series of emotions leading to catharsis, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions”. A tragedy should also contain six key elements: Plot, Character, Thought, Diction, Melody, and Spectacle (McManus, 1999). A tragic hero, which is defined by Aristotle as a protagonist who is doomed not because they are evil but by some error in judgement on their part, is also necessary for a tragedy (Aristotle, n.d.). In the case of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, that tragic hero is Oedipus. This essay will begin by summarising the play and then go on to expand on the literary elements of the play which have earned it worthy recognition as one of the greatest tragedies ever written.
The play opens with the news of a terrible plague that has besieged Thebes being brought to the attention of King Oedipus. However, the King was already aware and had made arrangements for his brother-in-law, Creon, to seek the help of the gods in finding a solution. Creon returns to inform Oedipus that the only way the plague will cease is if the murderer of the late King Laius is brought to justice (Sophocles, 1912). King Oedipus then takes it upon himself to seek out the murderer and consequently put an end to the plague. In order to locate and prosecute the murderer, Oedipus questions a number of citizens concerning the situation, one of which happens to be Teiresias, the blind prophet, who informs Oedipus that he himself is the murderer he seeks and was responsible for the death of King Laius. The news leaves the King feeling distraught but he is persuaded by his wife Jocasta to disregard the words of the prophet as prophets are not completely infallible. She cites the son she bore for King Laius as an example: It was foretold by a prophet that the son would murder his father and then sleep with his mother (Sophocles, 1912). But as far as Jocasta knew the child was dead so the prophecy couldn't possibly have come to pass. Although told with good intentions, Jocasta’s story did nothing to soothe Oedipus’ concerns and he recalls that as a child he was told by an old man that he was adopted and would one day kill his biological father and sleep with his biological mother. Oedipus also remembers killing a man at a crossroads in a way not unlike the way King Laius was killed. Oedipus stubbornly disregards all Jocasta’s warnings and goes on a search for information concerning the abandoned child. Jocasta later realises that she in in fact Oedipus’ mother and Laius was his father, a revelation which causes her to kill herself. Oedipus soon after comes to the same realisation which leads to him gouging his eyes out and being...

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