Biographic Information of the Author
The topic, which has been chosen for this paper is Oedipus the King. The author of this piece of writing is Sophocles. Sophocles was the innovator of drama. He has well known as the master of tragedy. Sophocles was appreciated because of his multiple roles including a political, priest and the leader of the military (Zachrisson pp. 313). There are several writings, which are associated with Sophocles. However, most of these writings are ancient. Therefore, it is not possible to consider them trustworthy. The biographical information of Sophocles, presented in this paper, is related to the general information, which is accepted to be reliable (Zachrisson pp. 313).
Sophocles was born in the city of Colonus. The father of Sophocles was a businessperson and used to manufacture armor. Sophocles pursued music education along with other education and training (Zachrisson pp. 313). This allowed him to become the master of music. It is said that the musical skills of Sophocles were enhanced by Lampros who was a famous musician of that time. Sophocles learnt the art of tragedy from Aeschylus. Sophocles won the first award in 468 BCE. He married two times in his life and had two sons. He became a treasurer in the 442 BCE. The responsibility of Sophocles, as a treasurer, was to collect tributes from different territories. After a few years, Sophocles was also elected as the general of the revolt. He received much respect from Athenian people (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
The story of Oedipus is based on a stranger who arrives at Thebes. The stranger found that the town was under the curse. The curse was placed on the town by the Sphinx. It was believed that the town would not get rid of the curse unless the questions of Oedipus are answered (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). The riddle was solved by the stranger who was Oedipus. After solving the problem, Oedipus became the king and married the queen of the previous king. With the passage of time, Oedipus realized that he was actually the son of the King. The idea horrified him and he blinds himself (Zachrisson pp. 313).
Sophocles, the author of Oedipus the King, was not the inventor of this story. On the contrary, the audience was already aware of this story. The first performance of the Oedipus fascinated the audience as well as the critics. According to Aristotle, the plot was the best example and depiction of the tragedy (Zachrisson pp. 313). The story and its plot also influenced several other significant and well-known people of that time. For example, Sigmund Freud developed Oedipal Complex theory based on this idea. According to the complex theory, boys have the desire to kill their father and sleep with their mother (Rosa pp. 1137).
Critical Analysis of the Text
Oedipus is well known as the man of action and great insight. The qualities of Oedipus made him the excellent leader (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). According to the text of the literature, when the plague hit Thebes, Oedipus was one-step ahead of the citizens in making preparations. In the text, it has been explained that Oedipus had the habit of acting quickly and swiftly towards the problem (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). This habit resulted in several benefits. However, the same habit proved to be very dangerous for him (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). In the beginning, Oedipus has been portrayed as a confident king. It was his confidence, which allowed him to save Thebes from the curse of Sphinx. The confidence also allowed him to become the king. However, at the end, he has been portrayed as a curse (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
The proactive approach and the confidence of Oedipus allowed him to achieve success at several points. Oedipus constantly engaged himself in the motion. In the story, Oedipus has been presented as a notable leader, who was well known for his justice and compassion. The swiftness of thoughts and actions of Oedipus were admired by the audience. There are several instances, where he has shown the concern for his people (Zachrisson pp. 313).
. At one point, he had shown concerns for the well-being of people by delivering a speech to an old priest. At another point, he insisted his people to hear the news, which was brought by Oracle. Although, it was suggested that he heard the news in private, he invited all his people to hear the message. The unsolved murder of Laius also urged him to solve the problem (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
The story of Oedipus was known to the audience. Therefore, the audience predicted from the initial parts that his greatness would result in a tragic fall. The dramatic irony has been well exploited by Sophocles in his text (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). According to the analysis of the text, it has been found that the blindness of Oedipus to his past and present and the relationship between two times is the reason for his ruin. It has also been analyzed from the text that Oedipus was the puppet of the fate. The fate brought catastrophe on him (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). The main theme of Oedipus the King is that fate is the character. Oedipus was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. However, his own actions led him towards the fate.
The central part of Oedipus the King is prophecy. The beginning of the piece of literature shows the return of Creon. In the beginning, it has been shown that the curse on the people will be lifted if the man who killed Thebes will be banished. It was predicted that the stranger who would arrive at Thebes would be both the father and the brother of his children. The prophecy was heard by Oedipus during childhood. When he told Jocasta about the prophecy, he was being told that the similar kind of prophecy was told about Laius. One of the aims of Oedipus was to ensure that the prophecies come true in the real world (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
The awareness of the audience increases the sense of inevitability. There are two contradictory arguments related to the story. According to one side, Oedipus was being foolish when he made different decisions. On the other side, it is argued that Oedipus had no choice but to fulfill the prophecy. It is argued that Oedipus brought the tragedy and catastrophes because of his flaws. However, there are no clear arguments, which define what his flaw was (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
The suicide by characters is common the story. In Oedipus the King, Jocasta hanged himself to death. When Oedipus found out about his father, he influenced severe violence on himself (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). The references to vision can also be observed in the literature. The clear vision has been used to refer to knowledge. The analysis of the play suggests that Oedipus was well known because of his vision. However, at a certain point in his life, he realized that he was blind for many years. The literature has shown that human beings possess excellent skills and power regarding knowledge and capacity (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
In Oedipus the King, crossroads have been used to refer to the crucial moments. When Oedipus fulfilled the prophecy, it was a crucial moment. The crossroads have also been used to refer to instances when choices were to be made (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719). They also refer to situations where it is important to make critical decisions. In Oedipus the King, the crossroads refer to the distant past of Oedipus. The story also has used the term to refer to fate and power (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
According to Aristotle, tragedy must imitate the life. The imitation must be in the form of story. A good tragedy is one that evokes fear and pity. After reading a tragedy, the audience goes through a series of emotions. All these characteristics are present in Oedipus the King (Schmidt-Hellerau, pp. 719)
The characteristics of a tragic hero have also been outlined by Aristotle. According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is one who is superior to the average people. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is superior to others not only because of his social position but also because of his intellectual capabilities. It is evident from the fact that he was the only one who managed to solve Sphinx’s riddle. A tragic hero also evokes fear in the story. Therefore, it is said that the tragic hero is a mixture of both good and evil characteristics. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus has not been portrayed as a perfect character but he has been shown to possess certain negative qualities also (Cohler pp. 25).
In Oedipus the King, Oedipus fathered children through incest. A tragic hero is one who suffers from error in judgment or tragic flaw. The flaw of Oedipus was because of his fate. Fate is an important idea, which has been conveyed in the story. The idea has surfaced several times in the literature. In Oedipus the King, irony has played an important role. The story has shown that the fate can be changed through struggle. For instance, Oedipus managed to escape from the attempts made to kill him. The story has said that whenever a person attempts to avert the future and prophecies, the result in failure (Zachrisson pp. 313).
In the story, Oedipus and Jocaste expressed their disbelief in oracles. The manner in which they expressed their disbelief was ironic. At one point in the history, Oedipus was being told that there is no power in oracles. However, later in the story, Oedipus prayed to the same gods he had mocked. This suggests that regardless of the disagreements with prophecies, Oedipus suspected that those prophecies could come true (Zachrisson pp. 313).
Oedipus has shown to be the man of with good thinking capabilities. The mysteries of Oedipus brought him to Thebes. The capabilities also allowed him to solve the riddle of Sphinx. The intelligence of Oedipus made him a great leader. At the same time, the capabilities and skills of Oedipus also made him tragic (Clark pp. 233).
The critical analysis of Oedipus the King, has explained that human beings make different decisions during their lives. With the passage of time, our decisions start to affect the destiny. The ability to make decisions comes from our personal values and beliefs. The general knowledge of what is right and what is wrong enhances our decision-making capability. This choice and discretion is often taken into granted by people. In the story, Oedipus was not allowed to make the choice. In fact, the prophecies chose his fate for him. Oedipus was forced to live the rest of his life in sufferings. The sudden turn of events did not only affect the life of Oedipus but also the lives of people around him (Zachrisson pp. 313).
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Schmidt-Hellerau, Cordelia. “The Lethic Phallus: Rethinking the Misery of Oedipus.” The Psychoanalytic quarterly 77.3 (2008): 719–753
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