The Great Debate:
Reading between the Lines
English 200 Spring 2012
May 1, 2012
The argument over the innocence or guilt of Oedipus is a never-ending debate. It is arguably the most talked about issue when dealing with Oedipus the King. While there are several different versions of the play, my paper will focus primarily on Oedipus the King. Oedipus’ innocence and guilt over whether he killed his father and married his mother is strongly debated on by readers and scholars. There are many people who are split over the issue and feel strongly about their views.
Many distinguished scholars have voiced their opinions in regard to the guilt and innocence of Oedipus. There are some scholars such as P.H. Vellacott and Laszlo Versenyi, ultimately feel that Oedipus is guilty of killing his father and marring his mother. In one of Vellacott’s articles on Oedipus, he stated that Oedipus has “ignored a divine warning.” However, Oedipus’ ignoring of a divine warning is not only what causes scholars to find him guilty, Versenyi also felt very strongly about Oedipus being guilty, in his article he claims that Oedipus’ nature and the need for self-knowledge “is also what destroys him.” Wheelwright also claims that “Oedipus had a “tragic flaw” (hamartia) of arrogance (hybris)” that may attribute to his guilt.
While there are many scholars that feel as though Oedipus is guilty there are just as many scholars who feel that he is innocent. These scholars include J.T. Sheppard and Thomas Gould. Sheppard believed that a “man may be guilty by no fault of his own” and Gould insists on Oedipus’ innocence by saying that “the element of innocent suffering in plays like Oedipus is obvious and cannot be completely subordinated to whatever justice may be there as well.”
After carefully reviewing all of the evidence provided, I have come to the decision that Oedipus is ultimately guilty of murder and incest. First, I will explain why I disagree with the...
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