Sophocles' play Oedipus the King was written for a Greek audience as a religious right and lesson around two thousand years ago, while Ibsen's play Ghosts was written as a criticism of the Norwegian society during the 1890's. Although these plays were written for very different reasons and under different circumstances, the universal theme connecting them is mankind's liability to sin because the results affect a greater whole. One of the more specific themes of these plays is the negative effect that parents' sins have upon the generations to follow.
In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is born the son of Laius and Jocasta, the king and queen of Thebes. However, when they hear Apollo's prophecy (that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother) they decide to destroy Oedipus. Apollo's prophecy made Oedipus an unwanted child. In this case, the parents' transgression of the law was that they attempted to defy the gods by evading Apollo's prophecy. Later Jocasta states that "no skill in the world, nothing human, can penetrate the future" (Sophocles 201). Oedipus, as a later response to her statement says, "
all those prophecies I feared - Polybus packs them off to sleep with him in hell! They're nothing, worthless" (Sophocles 214). In this way, Oedipus and Jocasta quit believing in the prophecies altogether. In Ghosts, Regine is the result of an affair that Captain Alving had with the housemaid, Johanna. Since Regine is a child born out of wedlock, she is unwanted by Captain Alving because she is the result of his sin, and if anyone were to discover her true origins it could destroy the respect that society has for him. She is also unwanted by Mrs. Alving because Regine is the only inextinguishable proof of Captain Alving's debauchery. If she did not exist it would be easier for Mrs. Alving to hide her husband's secret.
Another set of sins that parents commit in both plays is hiding the true origins of their children. For example, Oedipus'...
Ibsen, Henrik. Four Major Plays. Trans. James McFarlane and Jens Arup. New York: Oxford UP, 1998
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Classics, 1984
Please join StudyMode to read the full document