November 23, 2013
Proper Punishment and Justice in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex
Within Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus’ destiny was to marry his biological mother and murder his biological father. Oedipus pointlessly tries to change his fate, but was powerless in changing anything. With no control over his destined fate, unaware of his family history, and unconscious of who his birth parents were, Oedipus is guiltless in killing his father and marrying his very own mother. Justice, which required the revealing and punishment of King Laios’ murderer, was served but was incomplete. King Oedipus is discovered to be guilty, which leads to his evacuation from the city and his voluntary punishment of blindness. Oedipus’s true intentions were to drive out the murderer and put an end to the plague within the City of Thebes, not to simply find out about his family’s history. Therefore, he did not deserve to punish himself at the end of the `play because his banishment was all that was necessary. Others may think differently by stating Oedipus may have been punished for his pride and confidence, which led to his very own downfall. Although he had too much pride and was over confident, he was still unaware and just as curious as any other human being would be. How can you punish someone who was unwillingly chosen as a victim of fate and only trying to be a good king towards his citizens?
As Sophocles’ opens the play, the citizens of Thebes call upon Oedipus to help abolish a deadly plague that has invaded their city. “O mighty power, we turn to you: Find us our safety, find us a remedy. Noblest of men, restore/ Life to our city! “(709), desperately states the priest. This marks the beginning of Oedipus ’search for Laios’ murderer. His objective was to eliminate the plague and to do this King Laios murder had to either be punished or driven off the land. Towards the end of the play, Oedipus ironically discovers that he was the mysterious killer that he was searching for. He miserably states, “Ah God! It was true! All the prophecies! (740). This implies that Oedipus was unaware of his fate and refused to believe others when they informed him about it. As the Gods insisted, Oedipus had to be punished by either death or exile. He was banned from the City of Thebes forever. Along with this punishment came two others; Oedipus’ voluntary punishment of blindness and the removal of his pride. The second messenger reports, “For the king ripped from her gown the golden brooches/ That were her ornament, and raised them, and plunged them down/ Straight into his eyeballs (743). This reveals that Oedipus stabbed out his eyes with his wife, Iokaste’s, dress pins. Oedipus blinded himself out of guilt and as an escape from the faces of the citizens of Thebes. Crying “No more, No more shall you look on the misery about me” (743), Oedipus was embarrassed to gaze upon the faces his citizens who have admired and trusted him. From the beginning of the play, it is evident that Oedipus is driven off of pride. His pride is what led him to him to psychically abusing himself and finding out he was the actual killer. Finding out the man he murdered, King Laios was his father and the woman he married, Iokaste, was his mother destroyed him. His citizens can no longer respect a King who has committed these crimes. Oedipus, once filled with much pride, has lost this pride and became powerless. Stripping Oedipus’ of his pride would be the cruelest punishment because pride is what he has live his life based on.
When considering the reasons as to why Oedipus is being punished, I think Oedipus does not deserve to be punished. As he was destined to, Oedipus murdered King Laios. He committed this murder out of self-defense. Oedipus stated, “There a herald came towards me, and a chariot/ Drawn by horses. The groom leading the horses/ Forced me off the road at his lord’s command”, states Oedipus (730). It is evident that...
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