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The Pride Of Sophocles' Oedipus The King

1461 words - 6 pages

The Pride of Sophocles' Oedipus The King

     Greek tragedy is characterized by the emotional catharsis brought about by the horrific suffering of a heroic figure. In Oedipus The King, by Sophocles, the onslaught of pain assailing the protagonist is a result of his tragic flaw. Sophocles often used a characters hamartia to alter or influence the outcome or future of the hero. Oedipus' hubris traps him to fulfil the oracle and intensifies his punishment.


Oedipus' pride is an innate characteristic. Even before his glory and power as King of Thebes he allowed his conceit to cloud his judgement and rule his actions. Unknowingly, Oedipus fulfills Apollo's oracle when he encounters a band of men at a crossroad. The driver offends Oedipus as he brushes by, inciting Oedipus' anger. Although the contact is just a slight intrusion, Oedipus, outraged that someone would have the gall to trouble him "paid them back with interest" and "killed everyone of them, every mother's son". In hindsight as he recounts the incident to Jocasta he is not remorseful for the loss of life nor for his part in the crime.  Instead, Oedipus' tone is one of satisfaction that he got revenge. Had his arrogance not interfered, Oedipus would not have made the rash decision to kill all of the party and would not have satisfied the prophecy. 


Oedipus' self-confidence blinds him to the impossibility evading fate predestined by the gods. Dramatic irony is present when Oedipus tries to skirt the horrible prophecy of him killing his father and coupling with his mother, because in fleeing Corinth to avoid murdering Polybus, he is taking steps that will realize the prophecy. Again his overconfidence contributes to the impending doom; in believing that he has outwitted the gods he challenges his fate. Although he has enough reverence to the deities not to assume himself to be an equal with the gods it is clear through the word usage that Oedipus perceives himself to be of a greater importance than the lesser mortals that surround him. "Here I am myself-you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus" He is conceited to think that he can shape his own destiny and the gods punish him for this arrogance.


Once Oedipus is made aware of the dire situation in Thebes he responsibly, but paternalistically assumes to be the saviour.  Oedipus' dialogue, "huddling at my alter, praying before me" suggests that Oedipus feels highly regarded, a divinity.  In addressing his people, Oedipus regards them as his children - his pride in his abilities enables him to take on the task of leader. His faith in himself results in a lack of prudence on his part.  Although Creon hints at bad news, Oedipus eagerly insists that Creon announce the oracle's words public, so that he will be thought of as an open, honest leader, not picking up on Creon's hesitation. Oedipus later assumes the role of a mortal god, "Let me grant your prayers".  He is now arrogant, believing that he...

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