Oedipus the Man

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Oedipus the Man

By | April 2008
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For the Greeks of ancient times, a source of entertainment was often found in the theaters, where great tragedies were performed. The narratives of these tragedies evoked in the audience feelings of pain and fear that were built up as the plot progressed; but were released as the tragic events transpired. The Greek audience not only obtained pleasure from this catharsis, or purification of emotions, but also acquired gratification from the ability to understand and connect with the hero. In the tragedy, Oedipus the Tyrant, the Greek philosopher Sophocles presents a paradigm of men that people can pity and identify with as he encounters his disastrous fate and experiences immense suffering. The character Oedipus was a tyrant, having seized the power of Thebes by using his intelligence to answer the riddle of the Sphinx. He was symbolic of a man that was ambitious to take control of his surroundings, choose his own destiny, and even become equated with the gods. However, the gods had already determined an ill-fated future for Oedipus, hence he was ultimately defeated. Nevertheless, his heroism is evident when he comes to accept the truth of his existence, recover from his despair, and move on with determination.

When Oedipus is first presented in the play, he is established as a confident, concerned ruler that is esteemed by his subjects. He makes it clear in his opening speech that he is superior, stating “I Oedipus whom all men call the Great” (Oedipus 8). Furthermore, when the chorus comes to ask him if he could help them get rid of the plagues, he exuded the qualities of a knowledgeable king with great leadership attributes such as taking interest in his people’s affairs and accepting responsibility, “…sick though you are, that is as sick as I myself…My spirit groans for city and myself and you at once” (Oedipus 60). Although Oedipus is dedicated to ensuring that what they ask of him is resolved, he talks down to them full of pride, almost as if he was...