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Oedipus Rex Essay


Essay written by Derekvo


Oedipus has a tragic flaw that leads to his demise, and efforts to attribute one to him to him seem forced . In his quest to uncover the truth and rid Thebes of the plague, he exhibits all the heroic qualities that made him the savior of Thebes during the Sphinxs reign of terror. Oedipus as a victim of a fate he could not control. He had enormous control over the events of his destiny through the numerous decisions he makes. He chooses to believe the oracle and leave Corinth. (The play is in fact a comment on the role of oracles and religion in the climate of the intellectual revolution going on in 5th century Athens.) He chooses to kill Laius. He chooses to marry Jocasta. He chooses to forcefully and very publicly assume the mission of discovering the identity of Laius killer. He proceeds on this mission and chooses to ignore the warnings of Creon, Jocasta, the messenger, the shepherd, of anyone that attempts to stand between him and the truth. And he chooses to blind himself (this is in fact a conscious act on his part to choose something on his own, an act that Apollo cannot be held responsible for.) If Oedipus was indeed a powerless pawn of fate, the play would be more than depressing, it would likely be meaningless.


General plot of greek tragedies is that a person (the hero) of usual great influence goes through a sudden reversal of good fortune to misfortune and that is a result of some tragic flaw, usually pride. Now in Oedipus the King, to say that Oedipuss downfall was due to his flaws would almost contradict the whole idea of fate itself. True that he was proud, to kill another man (Lauis) over a traffic block, to scorn Tiresias, and to accuse Creon of envy, but was that really the cause of his tragedy? if fate already has it that he will kill his father and wed his mother, would it still matter if he had any flaws or not? are the flaws part of his fate? this play is, I believe, one of the most depressing of tragedies---it tells us that we have absolutely no control over our destiny, that we are ruled by fate. Even though Oedipus tried to escape his wretched fate when he first heard the from the oracle he still played through theprophesy.


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If the play seems, in part, to be saying that we cannotr avoid our destiny, it leaves unanswered the question of whether we deserve that destiny or not. Certainly Oedipus does not choose deliberately to kill his father and marry his mother, even though unknowingly everything he doesleads to this end. Then why does he deserve to suffer for his actions? There are two answers. First, the flaw in Oedipus character (pride and stubbornness) in insisting on discovering who he is and the anger he shows in the process bring about the final disastrous revelation. In this way the flaws, or weaknesses, in his character overcome his good points and destroy him.


Second The message of the play may, perhaps be in that there are some aspects of existence beyond our understanding, aspects that operate by principles outside our range of experience. If this is so, Sophocles seems to be describing the final helplessness of humanity in the face of forces that we cannot control and warning against too great a belief in self-reliance.


May in this case the play seems to be sending through a universal message and that is not to tamper with predetermined destiny that the gods set us. However in Oedipus case it is his ARROGANCE!! That gets him into the mess. It a question at the time the play was written and it seems to be questioned now and that is there some kind of divine power or is our lives purely ruled by our selves? Do we control ours destiny.





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