Oedipus the King relates the story of Oedipus who reached Thebes, having killed on the way an old man with whom he picked a quarrel.
We will write a custom essay sample on Oedipus the King: A Theme Analysis or any similar topic only for you Order Now The city of Thebes was then suffering terribly because of the monster, the Sphinx. He solved her riddle and citizens of Thebes offered him the kingdom as city is afflicted with the loss of their king, who had been murdered while on a pilgrimage.
So he assumed the power and married the widowed queen. Here the tragedy of Oedipus takes its final course. As city was afflicted with famine, so Delphic oracles were consulted who disclosed that troubles of the city arose from the fact that it is harboring an unclean person, the murderer of late king Laius. Oedipus resolved to get to the bottom of this mystery and punish the wrongdoer.
However, he ultimately discovered that the culprit he was seeking was none other than he himself. He blinded himself and went on exile. There are various standpoints for looking at the theme of the play. It may be considered as a play enacting the theme of insecurity and illusoriness of human happiness. Or the theme may be that of the inadequacy of human intelligence in resolving the riddles of destiny. The identification of themes in Oedipus differs from reader to reader and from critic to critic.
I think that Sophocles wanted to convey that a man is plunged from prosperity and power to ruin ands ignominy due to his own human failings. It was something in his character that brought his tragedy. Anything foreign to his own character only augmented the tragic proceedings but it was only his own disposition that made him a prey to disgrace.
Distinguished Professor Butcher has identified four possible ranges of human failings in Oedipus. Such acts are committed in anger or passion. One way of deciding this question is to examine what other characters in the play say about Oedipus. The only result that we can arrive at in this way is that Sophocles intends us to consider Oedipus an essentially noble person. In the opening scene of the play, the priest of Zeus refers to him as the greatest and noblest of men and the divinely inspired savior who saved Thebes from being destroyed by the Sphinx.
The Chorus also considers him to be noble and virtuous. They refuse to believe in Tireseas accusations of him. When catastrophe befalls Oedipus, not a single character in the play justifies it as a doom which has deservedly overtaken Oedipus. Dodds, p. Let us examine those. Oedipus seems to be obsessed with his own intelligence and this leads him to very unfortunate and uncomfortable situations. This human weakness of Oedipus laps over with his pride as he is extremely proud of the fact that he was able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx which had proved too much for any other person.
He thinks that Gods has capacitated him with intelligence and wisdom to solve riddle that the Thebes is afflicted with. He says; And where were you, when the Dog-faced Witch was here?
Have you any word of deliverance then for our people? There was a riddle too deep for common wits; A seer should have answered it, but answer there came none From you….. Self-confidence and pride in his own wisdom is an outstanding feature of his character that also brings his tragedy.
Here Oedipus also fulfills the traits of Aristotelian tragic hero as he possesses a noble tragic flaw. The man who sets out on his new task by sending first for the venerable seer is not lacking in pious reverence; but we also observe that Oedipus manifests unrestrained arrogance in his own intellectual achievement. This is a justified pride but it amounts too much. This pride and self-confidence induce Oedipus to despise prophecy and feel almost superior to the gods. He tell the people who pray for deliverance from pathos and miseries they are afflicted with if they listen to and follow his advice in order to get a remedy.
These characteristics were only fuel to the fire and added to the pride created a blaze that consumed him. His inquisitive nature is not content with anything which is either half-hearted or incomplete. Nor can he brook any delay. He damns that the direction of the oracle should be given effect at once. As before, Oedipus speaks on the basis of the workings of his own mental faculties that has been tested time and again and have proved their intelligence.
It can be said that the tragedy of Oedipus is the result more of his good qualities than his bad ones. It is his love for Thebes which makes him send Creon to Delphi to consult the Oracles.
It is the same care for his subjects who make him proclaim a ban and a curse on the murderer of Laius. It is his absolute honesty which makes him include even himself within the curse and the punishment. To Oedipus the discovery of truth is more important than his own good and safety.
Even when it seems that the investigation that he is carrying on will not produce any result which will be him, he decides to carry on with it. He is so honest with himself that he inflicts the punishment of self-blinding and banishment from the city of Thebes. So his moral goodness also seems as a human failing that brings his ruin. There is another important human failing that contribute toward his tragedy i. He has a limited vision and is unable to assess the situations in a right perspective.
Robert L. One is related to physical sight whereas the other, the most pernicious type of blindness, pertains to insight. Tiresias is physically blind but whereas Oedipus is blind intellectually.
This intellectual blindness of Oedipus also contributes greatly to lead him to his tragic destination. On the same basis, Oedipus chooses to ignore the oracle while Jocasta overlooks the fact that her son was to kill her husband.
Oedipus knows this very well but in an attempt to feel good they deliberately choose to ignore the truth. The ironical part of this part notwithstanding; the audience cannot fail to see the vehement denial of truth. People have eyes; they see but choose not to acknowledge and accept the truth.
Finally, freewill has limits and this comes out clearly in this story. Prophecy and oracles were respected amongst Greek people during this era. This same oracle had predicted that Oedipus was going to murder his own father and take his mother to bed.
On the other hand, prophecy had let Jocasta know that her son would kill her husband and sleep with her. Things have gone out of hand such that, they cannot be restored; not even by freewill. Conclusion Sophocles employs the element of theme to communicate with the audience. The theme of this story was to address issues that were affecting the people of Thebes during this time and even in times to come.
The audience can easily know what Sophocles meant by writing this script.
Oedipus sends for the prophet Teiresias, who after much arguing, finally reveals that Oedipus himself is the murderer. It seems that running away from one's fate ultimately ensures that one is only running towards it. It is his absolute honesty which makes him include even himself within the curse and the punishment. They refuse to believe in Tireseas accusations of him. I think that Sophocles wanted to convey that a man is plunged from prosperity and power to ruin ands ignominy due to his own human failings.
This was Sophocles' most celebrated play. We will write a custom essay sample on Oedipus the King: A Theme Analysis or any similar topic only for you Order Now The city of Thebes was then suffering terribly because of the monster, the Sphinx. All the above-mentioned manifestations of tragic flaw, their supported arguments and views of the critics clearly proves the thesis that Oedipus unavoidable ignorance was the major factor of his tragedy because he was unable to locate that the man whom he assaulted on the crossroads to Thebes was his father. As Oedipus continues to mock him, the prophet decides to specify his prophecy and prove that Oedipus is "blind He blinded himself and went on exile.
Because Teiresias hints at the truth without giving it entirely away, Oedipus remains unsighted to the truth. Oedipus then performs the perfect act of symbolic retribution. The answer that is received suggests to find out who the killer of King Laios was. The irony is that the reader knows this from the very start of this Greek drama.
At one point in the play, he has the ability to see but he is not willing to do so. Let us examine those. Everything a reader could ask for is included in this play. Yet in the end, these two roles merge into one person — Oedipus himself. Oedipus cannot accept the truth as it comes to him or even where it comes from.
Oedipus at Thebes. At one point in the play, he has the ability to see but he is not willing to do so. Lastly, Teiresias is ultimately responsible for imposing dramatic irony because of his great knowledge of the truth of Oedipus.
Oedipus was very temperamental and became easily angered Oedipus the King: A Translation with Commentary. King Oedipus sends a messenger to the oracle at Delphi to find a cure.
This intellectual blindness of Oedipus also contributes greatly to lead him to his tragic destination. This is a justified pride but it amounts too much. Related Interests. How to cite this page Choose cite format:. She had nothing to fear because she knew that she had done the right thing.