Oedipus’ Tragic Flaws:
An Analysis of Oedipus Rex
In Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex, first performed sometime in the 430s B.C.E, the scene opens in front of the palace of Oedipus, King of Thebes. As Oedipus enters, he finds many children and priests praying to the gods. Oedipus questions the oldest of the priests as to why they are praying. The priest tells him that there is a plague of sorts that has befallen on the city of Thebes causing the destruction of crops and livestock and also caused the women of the city not to be able to bear children. Oedipus, being concerned for his people, sends his brother-in-law Creon to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to learn from the gods what might be done to save the city. When Creon returns he tells Oedipus along with the crowd assembled that “The god commands us to expel from the land of Thebes / An old defilement we are sheltering” (99, 100). Upon further explanation Creon says that revenge must be taken upon the murderer of the former King of Thebes, Laios, before the plague will be lifted from the city, because Apollo has told him “It was / Murder that brought the plague-wind on the city (104, 105). The investigation that ensues uncovers horrible truths of a prophecy that Oedipus has been running from for years, but because of his tragic flaws have all come to pass anyway.
Oedipus’ first tragic flaw that he shows is his excessive pride. When Oedipus firsts finds out about the plague on the city and the reasons for the plague, he immediately vows to find the killer and free his city of this atrocity. Oedipus identifies the city of Thebes as himself, in some part to his first act when arriving at the city by solving the riddle of the Sphinx, which by doing so enabled him to marry the widowed Queen Jocasta and claim the throne of Thebes. Oedipus puts himself on a level at or above the gods with his pride which is proven when he states “What good were they? or the gods, for the matter of that? / But I came by, /...
Cited: Sophacles. “Oedipus Rex.” The Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Ed. Karen S. Henry.
Book 1. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2004. 899-951
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