The Character of Oedipus in Oedipus and The Infernal Machine
The stories of Oedipus, as told through Seneca's Oedipus and Cocteau's The Infernal Machine, contain both similarites and differences. Both authors portray the character of Oedipus as being obstinate, ignorant, and inquisitive. Yet Seneca and Cocteau differ on their interpretation of the motives that propelled these characteristics of Oedipus. Seneca portrays Oedipus as a mature man who, in seeing the troubles of the plague that has descended upon Thebes, feels true sorrow for his dying people and wishes to cure his moribund city. On the other hand, Cocteau's Oedipus is a pretentious, immature, and overweening young adult who seeks to indulge himself in the fast and wealthy lifestyle of the royal class.
Seneca and Cocteau seem to agree that Oedipus is a very persistent, curious, and yet unwitting character. Furthermore, they believe that it these qualities that ultimately bring about his demise. In Seneca's tale, Tiresias tries to warn Oedipus that only bad will result from his need to know the identity of Laius's killer-"Avid your hung er for such knowledge now , but you will come to rue the things you know." (Sen. Oed. p. 22) Even when his horrible actions are discovered by all the other characters, Oedipus, oblivious to the truth, persists with the search. Creon describes the area in which the King Laius was slain, yet Oedipus seems to realize nothing and instead, continu es to demand the identity of Laius's killer.
Oedipus. . . .Whom did I murder? Through a blunder, a pure blunder, an old man on the road- a stranger.
Tiresias. Oedipus, your blunder killed the husband of Jocasta, King Laius.
Oedipus. The two of you. Now I see the shape of your plot . . . and it's worse than I thought. You insinuated to Jocasta that I had murdered Laius . . . that I killed the King so that I could marry her. Cocteau, Infernal Machine, p.90
In this quote, so too is Cocteau's Oedipus seemingly blind to the virtually obvious, choosing instead to believe Tiresias's wishes in admitting Oedipus's horrible deeds, were only to seize control of the throne. Jocasta and Creon also try to warn Oedipus of the impending truth, but it is to no avail, as Oedipus will not heed their pleas.
Contrary to one another, are Seneca and Cocteau's views on Oedipus's reasons for being so pertinacious in his search for the killer of Laius. Seneca's Oedipus, a stately, old, and sage man, is committed to his role as king. But under the present circumstances, in which a horrible plague ravages Thebes, Oedipus with all his human powers a nd abilities, is not able to provide assistance. Only can he pray...