Essays oedipus the king themes

Similarly, the play itself works backwards towards a revelatory start: the story has, in effect, already happened - and Oedipus is forced to discover his own history.

Throughout the play, a central inconsistency dominates - namely the herdsman and Jocasta both believe Laius to have been killed by several people at the crossroads. The story, however, reveals that Oedipus himself alone killed Laius. How can Laius have been supposedly killed by one person — and also by many people?

Yet in the end, these two roles merge into one person — Oedipus himself. The Oedipus we are left with at the end of the play is similarly both father and brother. Throughout Oedipus, then, it remains a pertinent question. Thebes at the start of the play is suffering from terrible blight which renders the fields and the women barren.

The oracle tells Oedipus at the start of the play that the source of this plague is Laius' murderer Oedipus himself. Health then, only comes with the end of the play and Oedipus' blindness. Again, 'plague' is both literal and metaphorical. There is a genuine plague, but also, to quote Hamlet, there might be "something rotten" in the moral state of Thebes. The origins of this play in the Oedipus myth see 'Oedipus and Myth' create an compelling question about foreknowledge and expectation.

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The Themes in Oedipus Rex

The audience who knew the myth would know from the start far more than Oedipus himself - hence a strong example of dramatic irony. Moreover, one of the themes the play considers as a corollary is whether or not you can escape your fate. In trying to murder her son, Jocasta finds him reborn as her husband.

Running from Corinth, from his parents, Oedipus murders his father on the way. It seems that running away from one's fate ultimately ensures that one is only running towards it. Oedipus himself goes from childlike innocence to a blinded man who needs to be led by his children. Oedipus, it might be said, ages with the discovery of his own shortcomings as a man.

In learning of his own weaknesses and frailties, he loses his innocence immediately. Which of the following best identifies a central theme of the story of Oedipus? Pssst… we can write an original essay just for you. Sophocles used his plays to encourage Athenians to take responsibility for their own actions.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles - Characters

In the fifth century B. Sophocles included all of these elements in plays, especially in Oedipus Rex and Antigone. For this reason, Sophocles created heroes unlike those of earlier mythology and used their flaws to emphasize the importance of personal accountability. He refuses to recognize the signs of the prophecy that foretold he would kill his father and marry his mother; at the same time, he is eager to uncover the truth. As more and more evidence is presented to him in favor of the prophecy, he tries to find a way around it and calls another witness.

Themes Oedipus Rex with Examples and Analysis - Literary Devices

Through this dialogue, one can tell that Oedipus is suppressing the knowledge that the prophecy is slowly unraveling and proving itself true. His flaw of pride not only suppresses his acceptance of the truth, but also leads him to fulfill the prophecy. He unknowingly kills Laius, his father, for insulting him as he made his passage into Thebes. None but a prideful man would kill over a simple insult. That is how the story goes. Where did the mishap fall?


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When he eventually learns the truth, he knows he must face the grim consequences. The chorus is used extensively as both a voice of reason and to convey emotions to the audience.

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In the third choral ode, the chorus doubts Oedipus and notes his pride. Then dog him and pay him pride wages for his haughty greed, his sacrilege and folly. Could I celebrate such wantonness and celebrate the dance? The climax and falling action probably are the best examples of Oedipus taking responsibility for his own actions. Once Oedipus has learned that his wife has hung herself, he realizes what must be done. Oedipus then performs the perfect act of symbolic retribution.

The play Antigone addresses many of the same themes, but there is an exceptional difference between this play and Oedipus Rex. Her story is about doing what she knows is right, standing up to oppression, and taking responsibility for her own actions. In this story, no time is wasted in arriving at the conflict.

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She continues trying to persuade Ismene, but it is no use and she does the deed alone and unflinching. When Antigone is brought to trial, there is a great debate over the power of state. However, Creon was interested in anything but the interests of the state and is a despot rather than a voice of the people. In the end, the side of both the Gods and the people lie with Antigone, who knew she was right. Creon, the tyrant, sides with the State and shows his desire for power over the greater good.

Antigone could have argued her case to Creon that she was not guilty of the crime; instead, she takes total responsibility for her actions and admits all her law-breaking actions. Her admirable — if damning — morality is precisely the quality that Sophocles tries to promote. He wants to show Athenians that to be a morally good person, she must take responsibility for her actions. At first the chorus in Antigone sides with Creon, as they do not believe in divine justice over state justice; as the story concludes, however, they are swayed to side with Antigone, whose devotion and compassion has changed their minds.

In the fourth choral ode the chorus attempts to comfort Antigone by recalling similar fateful situations, showing they have begun to side with her. Because the chorus represents the collective people of Greece, its change of heart shows that Antigone is intended to represent the people.