Analysis Of Sophocles Oedipus The King

Topics: Sophocles, Oedipus, Tragedy Pages: 4 (783 words) Published: December 5, 2015


Sophocles’s use of both plot and character within his classic tragedy “Oedipus the King” portray the religious and ethical views of the Classical period of Ancient Greece to such an extent that Knox goes so far as to say that “the audience which watched Oedipus in the theatre of Dionysus was watching itself.” Marlowe uses similar tools of character construction and plot in “Dr Faustus” to reflect the beliefs and moral attitudes held in Elizabethan England. The playwrights both use the conceptions of their protagonists to present contemporary beliefs; for example, the initial portrayal of the characters of Oedipus and Dr Faustus demonstrate ideological characteristics of a man within their respective contexts. On the other hand, with the...

Faustus for example is established as being a successful scholar – being accomplished in many fields of study. In Act 1 scene 1 Cornelius describes Faustus as being “grounded in astrology/Enriched with tongues, well seen in minerals” - this demonstrates a broad number of academic achievements. Given the importance placed on knowledge and education in 16th century England the ideal Elizabethan man would have been one who was adept at a variety of subjects – including languages, arts, humanities etc. and therefore this initial portrayal of Faustus reflects Elizabethan ideals. As the title implies, he is “graced with doctors good name”. The particular qualification Faustus has took 15 years to acquire at this time and this title therefore demonstrates characteristics of dedication and hard work, also values that were highly regarded in society at this time. This achievement of academic standing is made all the more impressive as the narrative exposition in the prologue reveals that Faustus was “born, of parents base of stock”. To come from a lower class background to being an established/respected scholar at a time with such strong class divisions also reinforces that he has high intellect and commitment to academia. Faustus’s early thirst for knowledge, before it becomes dangerous, portrays him as a renaissance man. R.C. Sproul writes on this that...

For example, Oedipus is shown, from the first scene, to be a benevolent ruler. Sophocles builds this idea through dialogue as Oedipus refers to the people of Thebes as “My children” – this paternal image is also noted by critic Victor Ehrenberg when he writes “Oedipus is a good king, a father of his people”. An ethical belief of the Ancient Greeks was that “each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the city as well” (Pericles) so Sophocles’s conception of character therefore reflects the ethical beliefs of this society. Similarly to Faustus, Oedipus displays intelligence, for example, he is the only person able to solve the sphinx’s riddle. Famously the Ancient Greeks held knowledge and scholarship highly so again Oedipus is demonstrating contemporary ideals. Furthermore the ideal Athenian leader would have been a “man of action”, something Oedipus definitely was. Frequently he is one step ahead (“I sent escorts, twice, within the hour”) therefore fulfilling this notion. However, initially, whilst he is a man of action he does not behave rashly and thinks carefully prior to acting (“groping and labouring over many paths of thought” before making a decision) and therefore is exemplifying still further this notion of the Athenian...
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