Oedipus and Antigone

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Truth in the Eyes of Justice
Greek theater encompassed many aspects that reflected the moral values and ideals of society. Their customs were tightly woven into the scripts of plays. Antigone and Oedipus the King, two renowned works of the Greek playwright Sophocles, explore these values through a plot thick with corruption, virtue, and determination. These plays reveal the burdens two Theban kings, Oedipus and Creon, as their lies and poor judgment corrode the integrity of their city, their families and themselves. Possessing a strong faith in their respective gods, the characters of these Greek plays are often led astray as they try to escape the twisted hand of fate, further warping their perception of reality. As their vain attempts leave their lives in ruin, Sophocles stresses the importance of upholding these values by finding a sense of morality. Greek theater reinforces the necessity to guide one’s own fate free of corruption and make choices backed by veracity. By placing their faith in various gods, individuals easily become subject to their twisted wills. Every action or unguided step has the potential to reverberate throughout ones entire life. The renowned playwright Sophocles develops the role of a higher power as the harbinger of justice. The characters of his plays prove their inability to govern their own lives as they are swept along by a cruel breeze. Is it prophecy and fate that determines their demise or the simple fact that one must pay for ones crimes? The role of a driving force that can be referred to as fate or karma is apparent. Upon the birth of the doomed Oedipus, it is prophesized that he will kill his father, Laius, and sleep with his mother, Jocasta. Laius’s fear of death causes him to dispose of Oedipus “…and the child’s birth was not three days past when Laius pinned its ankles together and had it thrown, by others’ hands, on a trackless mountain (Sophocles 94). The abandonment of his child is a sin and an atrocity that invokes his untimely death. Laius is unable to escape from death by his son’s hand. Oedipus is found and raised as a prince and while traveling, Oedipus meets and kills Laius, unknowingly his father. Soon becoming the king of Thebes, he weds Jocasta. The will of the gods has now been fulfilled, but no act can go unpunished. Oedipus must pay for the murder of his father, and Thebes must share the burden of their corrupt king. Oedipus swears that the murderer of Laius will be found and exiled even if it proves to be a member of his own family. He then investigates finding himself guilty and pays a dear price. The will of the gods…“All brought to pass, all true! You light, may I now look my last on you, I who have been found accursed in birth, accursed in wedlock, accursed in the shedding of blood!” (Sophocles 106). He ultimately loses his kingdom, his wife and his eyes. By making Oedipus suffer, the role of justice is fulfilled. Realizing that he has doomed himself, he cries out in anguish, “Woe is me! Alas, alas, wretched that I am! Whither, whither am I borne in my misery? How is my voice swept abroad on the wings of the air? Oh my Fate, how far you have sprung! (Sophocles 109). Oedipus is exiled and the role of king is then passed to his arrogant brother-in-law, Creon. Theban King Creon shares the tragic fate of his cursed family. Polynices and Eteocles, the two sons of Oedipus, die as they war over their exiled father’s kingdom. Creon’s refusal to allow Polynices a proper burial destroys his entire family by incurring the wrath of the gods…“for it was not Zeus that had published that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the Justice who dwells with the gods below. Nor did [Antigone] deem that [Creon’s] decrees were of such force that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven” (Sophocles 127). Antigone defies Creon’s edict by burying her brother and upholding what she believes to be just. This...
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