Week 8 : Oedipus
This week we encounter two famous tragedies, both set at Thebes, that center on questions of guilt and identity: Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Eurpides’ Bacchae. Oedipus is confident that he can escape the unthinkable fate that was foretold by the Delphic oracle; we watch as he eventually realizes the horror of what he has done. With Odysseus, we saw how a great hero can re-build his identity after struggles, while Oedipus shows us how our identities can dissolve before our very eyes. The myth of Oedipus is one of transgressions—intentional and unintentional—and about the limits of human knowledge. In Euripides’ Bacchae, the identity of gods and mortals is under scrutiny. Here, Dionysus, the god of wine and of tragedy, and also madness, appears as a character on stage. Through the dissolution of Pentheus, we see the terrible consequences that can occur when a god’s divinity is not properly acknowledged
Greek tragedies are about taboos individuals who break human laws and divine imperative incest, killing in your family, children, Mother and Son incest. This is the theme of Oedpus Rex; every era has found its image of itself – post Christian redemption, political allegory, or an odyssey into consciousness like Freud.
The oracle said that the plague was caused by the presence of the king’s murderer. At the end of the play Oedipus discovers that he is the murderer. Freud said something about this. Myth is a dream, said F. Unconscious truths, the more access a poet has the more impact his poem/play will have. F said writers have access to psy truths.
The play is set in Thebes a city hostile to Athens, undemocratic, Oedipus was despotic. Voltaire’s translation of the play. interpreted as a precursor of aristocrats and kings by popular uprising; the most conspicuous change – Sophocles takes out the divine truth’s interpretation, man’s own questing instead. Is what happens O’s fault – yes and not – the issue of guilt and resp is one of a problem on the stage. Oedipus as doomed before he was born; The Delphic oracle said this.
Notes on Oedipus:
Oedipus Rex is one of the greatest creations of Sophocles where king Oedipus is the protagonist who is the victim of his own fate. Generally, fate is one of the opposition elements of the play which is influenced by one’s own action but ultimately is dictated by events beyond anybody’s control.
Oedipus is the son of king Laius and queen Jocasta. They hear from an astrologer that, Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother. That’s why they tie his legs with a strong rope and order a shepherd to keep him on the peak of the mountain so that the beasts of the mountain eat him.
Shepherd takes pity to him. He does not keep it on the peak of the mountain. Actually, the destiny of Oedipus saves him from certain death. The shepherd gives Oedipus to another shepherd who is the member of another kingdom. He takes it and shows him to his king. The king has no child so he becomes very happy to get Oedipus. He and his wife take great care as their child.
After some years later when Oedipus is young enough, one day he hears from another astrologer that he will kill his father and marry his mother. At that time he does not know his real identity, he thinks that Polybus is his father. So he does not want to kill his father and marry his mother. He returns to his own country but he does not know that it is his own country. It is the creation of destiny.
Oedipus walks along the road and goes towards his country. Suddenly his father, along with his solders are also coming on the road from his opposite site. Oedipus has killed his father king Laius and his solders only for a simple matter. So, here the first prediction has become true and fate has won and defeated the man. The people of that kingdom have heard that the king has been killed by some robbers.
After some moments Oedipus meets with a sphinx which is a monster. It asks a question to the people but everybody fails to give the correct answer and when they fail to give the correct answer it eats him/her. He also asks Oedipus the same question but he gives the correct answer and the sphinx jumps from the mountain and dies. When the people of that country have learnt about the greatest success of Oedipus they become happy to Oedipus and as a gift they give their queen to Oedipus as their king was killed. So Oedipus is bound to marry the queen who is his own mother. Here we observe that destiny has totally won and the fate has proved that no man can deny his sorrow and suffering.
Oedipus has been trying his best to deny his fate and save him from the worse sin but he fails because his destiny bounds him to do so. Oedipus has failed and fate has won. So the role of fate on Oedipus is almighty.