Literary Genres: Drama and Essay
September 20, 2007
The tragedy of Oedipus
Sophocles is one of the best and most well-known ancient Greek tragedians. He influenced the development of drama especially by adding a third character and thereby reducing the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. Even though he wrote 123 plays, he is mostly famous for his three plays concerning Oedipus and Antigone: these are often known as the Theban plays or The Oedipus Cycle. One of these plays is “Oedipus the King”, which will be discussed throughout this essay. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus learns, as the story unfolds, that he committed both patricide and incest. Sophocles’ use of dramatic irony emphasizes how limited human understanding is and the pain and suffering that is created due to misunderstandings. As time progresses, he slowly and powerlessly watches his world and everything he has known crumble before him. Now, the real question is whether or not he bears full responsibility for what is happening and for his past acts. In my opinion, Oedipus is indeed responsible to a great extent for his fate.
I believe that Oedipus is responsible to a great extent for his own fate as he is brought down and exiled because of his personality. In other words, he causes his own grief by being who he is, and it all starts there. Oedipus is a confident person, perhaps a little bit overconfident, as is several multiple times throughout the play: “You child of endless night! You can not hurt me/Or any other man who sees the sun” (52). Furthermore, Oedipus is proud of himself and what he has accomplished, especially regarding what happened with the Sphinx: “The tyrant is a child of Pride” (67). The tyrant, which, aside from the modern meaning, can also be interpreted as “King”, is Oedipus. “Pride” refers to the fact that he is proud to have defeated the Sphinx by personal means only. Moreover, Oedipus is a very arrogant person, hence the use of the word
Cited: Sophocles. “Oedipus the King” Trans. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Drama: A Pocket Anthology. Ed. R.S. Gwynn and Wanda Campbell. Toronto: Pearson, 2004. 39-89.