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→ Başlığın diğer anlamları için
Oedipus (anlam ayrımı) sayfasına bakınız.
Oedipus (Yunanca Oidipous, "şişik ayaklı";
Latince Oedipus) veya dipus.
Thebes'in mitolojik kralı,
İokaste'nın oğlu. Babasını öldürüp, annesiyle evlenmiştir.
Pelops un oğluna tecavüz ettiği için
crysispios Pelops tarafından lanetlenir: Laios'un yeni
doğan oğlu Oedipus, babasını öldürecektir. Bunun üzerine
Laios, oğlunun ayak bileklerini iplerle sardırır (Yunanca
oidipous, "şişik ayaklı") ve Oedipus'un, kurtlara
ya da kuşlara yem olması için ormana bırakılmasını emreder.
Fakat yardımcısı, Laios'a ihanet eder ve küçük 'Edip'i götürüp
bir çobana teslim eder. Çoban, Küçük Oedipus'i, çocukları
Polybos ve kraliçe
Periboea) armağan eder. Polybos ve Merope, Oedipus'u
kendi öz çocukları gibi sever ve büyütür. Korint Kral ve
kraliçesi oğulları Oidipus'la birlikte mutlu yaşarlar ta
ki günün birinde bir şölen sırasında oldukça sarhoş bir
davetli Oidipus'a "evlatlık" gözüyle bakana dek. Ertesi
gün genç adam annesini, babasını sorgular, ikisi de inkar
eder. Oidipus yine de kuşku içinde kalır. Bunun üzerine
Delphoi'ye yola çıkar. Kahin onu horlayarak başından savar;
sorusuna hiç değinmeden iğrenç bir geleceğin haberini verir:
Oidipus annesiyle beraber olacak, zina ürünü bir soyu türeyecek
ve kendisine hayat vermiş olan babasının katili olacaktır.
Dehşete düşen Oidipus nereye gideceğini pek düşünmeden oralardan
kaçar; bir daha asla Korint'e dönmeyecektir. Delphoi'den
çıkarken dar bir yol ağzında arabaya binmiş, yanında da
bir kaç hizmetçi bulunan bilinmedik yaşlı bir adama rastlar.
Geçiş önceliği için çekişirler: Oidipus arabanın yanındean
geçmekte iken yaşlı adam onun kafasının orta yerine iki
kamçı darbesi indirir. Oidipus hemen sert karşılık verir:
Sopası ile ihtiyarı yere yıkar, sonra da tanıkları öldürür.
Artık yollarda başıboş dolanmaya başlar Thebai'ye varır.
Bu şehrin üzerinde bir bela vardır.
"Şehrin dolayında dağlık bir buruna bir canavar, çiğ
et yiyen Sfenks yerleşmiştir."
Sfenks yolcuları gözetleyip, her birine bilmecesini sorar;
hiç kimse bilmeceyi çözemez, o da hepsini parçalayıp yer.
Thebaililer her gün agoraya toplanarak bilmecenin cevabını
bulmaya çalışırlar; kralları yeni öldürülmüş olduğundan
kendilerini sfenksten kurtaracak olan kimseye sitenin tahtını
da söz verirler. Oidipus oradan geçerken bilmece ona da
"O hangi yaratıktır ki bir süre iki ayak üzerinde, bir
süre üç, bir süre de dört ayakla yürür ve de, doğa yasalarına
aykırı olarak, ayakları en çok olduğu zaman güçsüzdür?"
Oidipus söyle bir düşünür ve yaratığın insan olduğunu söyler:
İlk çocukluğunda insan dört ayağı üzerindedir, emekler,
daha sonra da iki ayağı üzerinde yürür, nihayet yaşlanınca
da bir sopaya dayanır.
Sfenks sorusunun çözülmesiyle intihar eder. Thebaililer
kurtarıcılarını alkışlar, onu kral yapar ve kraliçe ile
evlendirirler. Şu halde Oidipus, Iokaste ile evlenmiştir.
Ondan Eteokles ve Polineikes adlı iki oğlu,
Antigone ve Ismene adında iki kızı olur. Sitede herkes
onun mutluluğuna hayrandır. Birkaç mutlu yıldan sonra Thebai'da
veba salgını yaşanır, artakalan insanlar Oidipus'a tekrar
onları kurtarmaları için yalvarır. Oidipus, Delphooi kahinine
danışır; kahin ona orada mutluluk içinde yaşamakta olan
günahkarı ülkeden kovmasını önerir. Oidipus eski kral Laios'a
karşı işlenip cezasız kalmış olan cinayetin söz konusu olduğunu
düşünür; suçluyu cezalandırmaya ant içer. Kör kahin Teireisias'a
sorar, kahin açığa vurur ki, katil Oidipus'un ta kendisidir,
o hem de kendi annesinin kocasıdır. Oidipus araştırır, Laios'un
Delphoi'ye giderken öldürüldüğünü öğrenir ve aklına aynı
yolda karşılaşıp öldürdüğü yaşlı adam gelir. Eş zamanlı
olarak babası Polybos'un ölüm haberini alır ve haberi getiren
ulak ona Polybos'un oğlu olmadığını açıklar. Öte yandan
Oidipus, Iokaste'dan duyduğu bir öyküyü hatırlar: Iokaste'ın
ilk kocasından bir çocuğunun ölmesi için ormana bırakılması.
Oidipus ormana bırakılan çocuğun kendisi olduğunu anlar.
Kehanet gerçek olmuştur. Günahları yüzünden kan ve kedere
gömülen, herkes tarafından terk edilen Oidipus artık sadece
kör bir dilencidir. Umarsızlık içinde Iokaste'in altın iğneleri
ile gözlerini oyar ve kızı Antigone'un izinde yollara düşer.
Iokaste de kendisini odasında asar.
Oedipus, the protagonist of this
classical tragedy, is a character ruled by fate and conflict. Oedipus
is destined to kill his father and marry his own mother. As this
fact comes to light, his father Laius, the king of Thebes, orders
a shepherd to kill the infant. The shepherd instead hands him over
to the shepherd of the neighboring kingdom of Corinth. The Corinthian
shepherd gives the child to his childless king. The queen and king
of Corinth raise Oedipus as their own child.
A young Oedipus hears about his
dreadful fate from the Delphic oracle and flees from Corinth. But
instead of fleeing from his fate he runs into it when he kills Laius
in an altercation at a crossroads. Later he saves Thebes from the
riddle of the Sphinx and marries the widowed queen Jocasta who in
reality is his own mother.
Oedipus character is controlled
by his fate yet at the same time his impetuous and short-tempered
nature contributes to his fate. Oedipus possesses the impulse and
intelligence to unravel and solve every mystery. It is this very
impulse which takes him to Delphi to seek the truth about his parentage
yet rather than face his fate, he attempts to run from it, thereby
defying the Gods. It is also his impetuous and short-tempered nature
that lands him in a fight with Laius at the crossroads. The consequence
is that he kills Laius. Oedipus has killed his father and the first
part of the oracle is fulfilled. Fate has played its trick assisted
by the very nature of Oedipus.
The impulse to solve the riddle
of Sphinx brings him to Thebes where he ends up marrying the widow
queen Jocasta. By marrying his own mother, the second part of the
oracle is also fulfilled, aided by Oedipus nature.
Apart from his eagerness to solve
riddles, Oedipus makes some grave judgmental errors. He very quickly
blames Creon for conspiring against him and does not even hesitate
in calling the great prophet Tiresias, a traitor. As a result, he
fails to heed Tiresias advice and warning (Tiresias warns him against
the consequences of the investigation.) Oedipus is obsessed with
solving this particular riddle, it his nature and he cannot go against
Finally, it is the same impulse
to solve the mystery of Laius death and his own birth which makes
Oedipus continue the investigations despite advice from both Tiresias
and Jocasta to stop. The result is the ultimate tragedy as Oedipus
realizes the truth of his wretched existence.
Oedipus is an intelligent man,
an ideal king and a genuinely good human being. He has all the qualities
of a great man, but he carries the seeds of his destruction within
himself. His impulsive and short-tempered nature along with fate
determines his downfall.
Oedipus character is typical of
the protagonists of
Greek tragedies. In Greek tragedies the protagonist
was supposed to be a royal person, almost perfect, but the perfection
was restricted by hamartia, a character flaw in the protagonist,
which determined his downfall. Oedipus is a proud figure who does
not take advice well. He is arrogant as when denouncing Tiresias
prophetic capabilities, but he is also fearless as he does not back
down from his quest although he fears the worst. Despite his flaws,
Oedipus is a good person who seeks the truth no matter how devastating.
With the realization of who he is also comes a newfound acceptance
of being fallible and accepting responsibility for his actions.
At the end of the play, Oedipus accepts his fate as well as the
punishment meted out to him and thereby becomes a greater hero.
Jocasta is the queen of Thebes
and wife of Oedipus. She is also Oedipus mother but in her ignorance
of this fact she marries him and even bears four children.
Jocastas character is introduced
in the play when there is a confrontation between Oedipus and Creon
in the second episode. She rebukes both men for fighting in public
and persuades them to act rationally. Thus, from the beginning she
comes across as a strong woman. She is a woman who is ready to speak
out her mind and attempts to pacify conflict.
Her character is presented as that
of a person who does not hesitate to shake off the hold of traditional
beliefs. She very openly expresses her disbelief in prophecies and
divine oracles. She says that she has not seen any of them fulfilled,
therefore she does not trust them. She is the skeptic who brings
in a sense of suspicion of the divine oracles. Her character is
used by Sophocles to explore the theme of the power of the oracles.
Sophocles thought that the cosmos was ruled by a divine order and
those who defied its order were condemned to be struck down. In
defying the oracles, Jocasta is contributing to the downfall of
the ruling family of Thebes. Her actions therefore are partly responsible
for Oedipus fall.
Jocasta is not as impetuous as
Oedipus is. Oedipus lets every situation control him. Jocasta, on
the other hand, appears as a person who would rather control the
situation. She reveals that she is more mature than Oedipus and
even reveals a maternal side towards him. This is evident in the
way she tries to stop Oedipus from investigating further into the
mystery of his birth. At this point, she has realized the possibility
that Oedipus may be her son. She would rather let the dreadful fact
remain a mystery then let it ruin their lives.
Jocasta is presented as a good
queen, a loving wife and a highly individualistic person yet she
too has her flaws. She becomes the victim of a terrible duality.
She is a mother-wife to Oedipus. This very duality of her situation
is the cause of her death. The entwined sheets with which she hangs
herself symbolize the double life she has led.
This character, marked by conflict
and ultimate tragedy, evokes a deep sympathy from the audience.
Creon is Jocastas brother and
a loyal Theban citizen. His character epitomizes the nationalistic
and patriotic sentiments of the ancient Greek society. Creon is
completely dedicated to his city-state and also to his king Oedipus.
He is rational, honest, and logical. These aspects of his character
come to light when he has a confrontation with Oedipus. Oedipus
blames him on conspiracy to gain kingship and Creon replies,
A man of sense was never yet a
traitor, I have no taste for that, nor could I force Myself to aid
This reply also highlights the
integrity of his character. In this scene he demonstrates his rational
nature. It also depicts his brilliant ability to persuade, which
is in sharp contrast to Oedipus impulsive and stubborn nature.
Thus, Creon serves as an effective foil to the protagonist.
Creons profound understanding
of statehood and his ideals about a good leadership are revealed
in the second section. This lends more credibility to his character
as a learned nobleman of Thebes.
He is a fearless citizen, who does
not hesitate to question the kings impulsive allegations. He stands
up for himself and argues for it even with the king. He treasures
his integrity of character and his loyalty above everything else.
Another important aspect of Creons
personality is revealed in the last scene of the final episode.
He forgives Oedipus, the man who has censured him. When Oedipus
pleads that Creon should banish him from Thebes, Creon exhibits
his prudence. He says that he is not the type to act on impulse
and without the advice of gods. He shows his faith and respect for
divine laws. He is kind to Oedipus and thoughtful enough to bring
his daughters to him. He is obviously aware of the fact that Oedipus
loves them very much and needs them in his hour of extreme distress.
Oedipus is touched by Creons supreme nature. He trusts him enough
to leave his daughters in his charge when he will leave Thebes.
Tiresias is a major character in
many of Sophocles tragedies. He is the old seer of Thebes who has
been given immortality. In Oedipus, he is the only man who is aware
of the fact that Oedipus has killed his father and married his mother.
He is a man of great learning and self-respect. He retorts back
in anger when Oedipus calls him a traitor and a villain. He warns
Oedipus to be careful, as he himself will be responsible for his
In Sophoclean tragedies, Tiresias
represents ancient wisdom and knowledge. He is endowed with immortality
that symbolizes the eternal nature of wisdom and knowledge. Through
him, Sophocles states the point that the individual who fails to
recognize this knowledge and respect the wisdom will ultimately
come to a tragic end like Oedipus.
Tiresias also represents the peoples
faith in divine laws. He is the seer and like the Delphic oracle
is viewed skeptically by Jocasta. But ultimately, the faith in him
and the oracle is reaffirmed as the tragedy reaches its conclusion.
Tiresias is more than human as
he can look into the future. Sophocles uses this character to explore
Oedipus character flaws. In the dialogue between Tiresias and Oedipus,
Oedipus is revealed to be obstinate, short-tempered and impervious
to the truth as when Tiresias tells him that you blame my temper
but you do not see that which lives within you. Throughout this
scene, Tiresias reveals the truth of whats causing the plague and
Oedipus refuses to listen. He is only enamored with his own perceptions.
The Corinthian shepherd and the
Theban shepherd are two important minor characters in the play.
Both these shepherds are presented as being kindhearted in attempting
shield Oedipus from the truth. Although they save
Oedipus in infancy, they also aid in helping bring his fate into
Later in the play these very people
hold the key to the mystery of Oedipus birth and they help the
tragedy reach its climax. They are important symbols of Oedipus
origins and it is through them and not family members that he understands
where he has come from.
The Dominance of Fate
Fate was of great concern to the Greeks, and
its workings resonate through many of their myths and texts. We see countless
characters who go to great lengths in attempts to alter fate, even if they
know such an aim to be futile. The inability of any mortal or immortal to
change prescribed outcomes stems from the three Fates: sisters Clotho, who
spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who assigns each persons destiny; and
Atropos, who carries the scissors to snip the thread of life at its end.
These three divinities pervade all the stories of Greek myth, whether they
be stories of gods, goddesses, demigods, heroes, or mortals and regardless
of the exploits recounted. Nothing can be done to alter or prolong the destiny
of ones life, regardless of the number of preparations or precautions taken.
This inflexibility applies just as much to Zeus as to the lowliest mortal,
as we see in Zeuss hounding of Prometheus to divulge the name of the woman
who will bear the offspring that one day will kill him.
Though this lesson is somewhat consolingthe
way of the world cannot be bent to match the whims of those in authorityit
is also very disturbing. The prospect of free will seems rather remote,
and even acts of great valor and bravery seem completely useless. The myths
provide an interesting counterpoint to this uselessness, however. In virtually
all the stories in which a character does everything in his power to block
a negative fate, and yet falls prey to it, we see that his efforts to subvert
fate typically provide exactly the circumstances required for the prescribed
fate to arise. In other words, the resisting characers themselves provide
the path to fates fulfillment.
A perfect example is the king of Thebes, who
has learned that his son, Oedipus, will one day kill him. The king takes
steps to ensure Oedipuss death but ends up ensuring only that he and Oedipus
fail to recognize each other when they meet on the road many years later.
This lack of recognition enables a dispute in which Oedipus slays his father
without thinking twice. It is the kings exercise of free will, then, that
ironically binds him even more surely to the thread of destiny. This mysterious,
inexplicable twinning between will and fate is visible in many the stories
and philosophical treatises of the Greeks.
Bloodshed Begets Bloodshed
Oedipus trilogy, Euripides plays, and
Homers two great epics all demonstrate the irreparable persistence of bloodshed
within Greek mythology that leads to death upon death. The royal house of
Atreus is most marked in this regard: the houses ancestor, Tantalus, inexplicably
cooks up his child and serves him to the gods, offending the deities and
cursing the entire house with the spilling of its blood from generation
to generation. We see the curse manifest when Atreus himself kills his brothers
son and serves him upan act of vengeance for wrong-doing done to him. Atreuss
son, Agamemnon, then sacrifices his own daughter, Iphigenia, as he has been
told it will procure good sailing winds for the Greeks to start off to Troy.
Rather, this deed leads his wife, Clytemnestra, to kill him on his first
night home, with support from his cousin Aegisthus, who is in turn avenging
Atreuss crimes. Last but not least, Orestes, the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra,
comes back to kill his mother and Aegisthus. Only two members remain in
the House of Atreus: Orestes and his sister Electra. Everyone else has been
foully murdered in this bloody chain of events.
Though these characters have brought terrible
violence upon those to whom they owed bonds of love and loyalty, they are
still not wholly condemnable. Orestes knows that he will incur the wrath
of the Furies and the gods in committing matricide. As terrible as matricide
is, Orestes would be even more in the wrong if he let his fathers death
go unpunished. Clytemnestra no doubt follows a similar rationale, as she
cannot allow Agamemnons sacrifice of their daughter to stand unavenged.
Even this is not the beginning of the chain: Agamemnon felt he had no choice
but to sacrifice Iphigenia, since his only other option was to break the
oath he made to Menelaus years before. Indeed, the whole line of Atreus
is cursed with such irresolvable dilemmas, the outcome of divine anger at
Tantaluss horrific and unprompted sacrifice of his son. In this slippery
world of confusing and conflicting ethics, the only certainty is that bloodshed
merely begets more bloodshed.
The Danger of Arrogance and Hubris
In many myths, mortals who display arrogance
and hubris end up learning, in quite brutal ways, the folly of this overexertion
of ego. The Greek concept of hubris refers to the overweening pride of humans
who hold themselves up as equals to the gods. Hubris is one of the worst
traits one can exhibit in the world of ancient Greece and invariably brings
the worst kind of destruction.
The story of Niobe is a prime example of the
danger of arrogance. Niobe has the audacity to compare herself to Leto,
the mother of Artemis and Apollo, thus elevating herself and her children
to the level of the divine. Insulted, the two gods strike all of Niobes
children dead and turn her into a rock that perpetually weeps. Likewise,
young Phaëthon, who pridefully believes he can drive the chariot of his
father, the Sun, loses control and burns everything in sight before Zeus
knocks him from the sky with a thunderbolt. Similar warnings against hubris
are found in the stories of Bellerophon, who bridles the winged Pegasus
and tries to ride up to Olympus and join the deities revelry, and Arachne,
who challenges Athena to a weaving contest and is changed into a spider
as punishment. Indeed, any type of hubris or arrogance, no matter the circumstance,
is an attitude that no god will leave unpunished.
Reward for Goodness and Retribution for Evil
The Greeks and Romans incorporated aspects
of their ethical codes in their myths. In a sense, these stories are manuals
of morality, providing models for correct conduct with examples of which
behaviors are rewarded and which are punished. The clearest example is the
story of Baucis and Philemon, an impoverished old couple who show kindness
to the disguised Jupiter and Mercury. Of everyone in the city, only Baucis
and Philemon are generous with their humble hospitality. Jupiter and Mercury
reward them and destroy all the other inhabitants of the area. The lesson
is clear: the gods judge our moral actions and dispense blessings or curses
The idea of these myths as moral guides is
not unlike the Judeo-Christian morality tales in the Bible. However, while
the God of the Bible is an infallible moral authority, the gods who judge
good and evil in classical myth harbor their own flaws. They have favorites
and enemies, often for vain reasonsHeras jealousy, for example, predisposes
her against several entirely innocent womenand are capable of switching
sides or abandoning their favorites for no clear reason, as Apollo does
to Hector just as Hector faces Achilles in combat. Aside from their prejudices,
of course, the gods are poor moral judges because they frequently act immorally
themselves, philandering, raping, lying, and callously using innocent mortals
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that
can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.
The Heros Quest
The story of a hero
with a quest frequently recurs in mythology. Many of these stories are similar:
a hero is born, raised in poverty by foster parents or a single mother,
and at a certain age ventures forth to reclaim his patrimony. He is charged
with some very difficult task and is offered the hand of a noble woman in
marriage upon his success. By accomplishing these tasks, the otherwise unknown
hero demonstrates his fitness to take on his fathers throne. This framework
is subject to some degree of variation, of course, but it holds true for
many of the hero stories Hamilton retells in
Theseus is the perfect example: though raised
far from Athens, he proves himselffrom the moment he departs toward his
fathera decent and upstanding heir by ridding the highway of bandits. Perseus,
Hercules, Achilles, and others offer small variations on this framework
of the heros quest. Interestingly, however, Odysseus, whose name has come
to be synonymous with the hero and quest, offers a notable difference from
the archetype. He does not grow up away from his parents, and he is already
married and undergoes an arduous journey on his return home after battle.
This difference, perhaps, explains why Odysseus strongly resonates as a
more modern character relevant to present times.
Beauty in all its
forms figures prominently in Hamiltons Mythology,
particularly in the Greek myths, which ascribe an immeasurable value to
beauty. Though appreciation of beauty is hardly a surprising find, it may
seem superficial to see aesthetic and artistic beauty given such a prominent
place in myths that also purport to be religious or moral guides.
Nonetheless, the assertion that beautiful is
better pervades the myths. It is evident in Zeuss and Apollos philandering,
Orpheuss winning over of Hades with his lovely music, the sparking of the
Trojan War over Helens legendary loveliness, and Heras and Athenas bitterness
at Pariss preference for Aphrodites fairness. With these myths in mind,
we see that, in the classical worldview, beauty is not in the eye of the
beholder, but rather a verifiable, objective actuality about which even
the gods must agree.
The seemingly indefinable
notion of love is an important agent in much of
Mythology, the source for many rewards,
punishments, motivations, and deceptions. The myths treat love in a way
that is different from most of our modern-day ideas of love. In creation
myths, love is described as a force, and it is out of love that Earth arises.
There are actually very few ordinary love stories, at least in our traditional
sense of the word, with a man and woman bonding in romance and living happily
ever after. There are, rather, several tragic tales, as those of Pyramus
and Thisbe or Ceyx and Alcyone, as well as many stories of unrequited love,
such as Polyphemus and Galatea or Echo and Narcissus.
Broadening the myths exploration of love and
lust are tales of kidnapping and rape, such as Hades and Persephone or Apollo
and Creusa. There are instances in which one partyalways the womanloves
so strongly and under such false premises that it spells disaster for her.
Such are the cases of Medea, Ariadne, and Dido, all of whom give themselves
over to love, heart and soulbetraying their own familiesonly to have the
men whom they love heartlessly move on after the womens usefulness is expended.
These tales perhaps imply a cautionary warning that blood is thicker than
water and that a brides family by marriage is never as trustworthy as her
birth family, to whom she truly owes allegiance.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent
abstract ideas or concepts.
the flesh of ones own kind, is disturbingly present in
Mythology. While it might seem repulsive
to include cannibalistic details within a story, there are a strikingly
large number of myths in which peoplefor the most part childrenare sliced,
cooked, and eaten. Aside from Tantaluss inexplicably poor decision to serve
his son to the gods, we see several stories in which the cannibalism of
ones children serves as the sweetest revengeas Atreus exacts it upon his
brother, and Procne upon her husband, Tereus. Even Cronus, the father of
Zeus and lord of the universe, methodically swallows his children one by
one in an attempt to forestall his downfall. Though the prevalence of cannibalism
in these myths might lead us to believe that the practice was accepted in
classical society, we see that cannibalism is severely punished in each
case. Why it occurs so frequently in the first place remains a mystery.
Perhaps the roots
of cannibalism lie in human sacrifice, the same source Hamilton identifies
in the flower myths of Hyacinth and Adonis. As we see, these sacrifices
are unwanted by the gods and typically punished severely, an indictment
of both cannibalism and human sacrifice. In this regard, it is interesting
to note the one instance in which a god actually
does want such a sacrifice: Artemiss call
for the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Significantly, in a later telling of this
myth, Artemis miraculously saves the girl instead.
prized for their art, it is no wonder that the Greeks and Romans retained
a mythology that elevates art to a divine practice or at least one that
almost consistently pleases the divine. The most prominent examples of mythological
artistry are Pygmalions beloved statue Galatea, Arachnes tapestry, and
the poet who is the one person Odysseus spares from death at the end of
the Odyssey. Both gods and mortals in the
myths understand the power and influence of art almost as they do the unwritten
rules of fate.
On a literary level, the symbol of art serves
a glorifying purpose, staking a claim for the power of the text itself.
This self-glorification is perhaps most obvious in Homer: Odysseus spares
the poet, unlike the priest whom he has just dispatched, because he is loath
to kill such a man, taught by the gods to sing divinely. In a less than
subtle way, Homer is hinting that he himself is one such sacred, divinely
touched creature. In addition to this self-glorification, art is used to
link men with their gods, as the gods not only appreciate art, but actually
make it themselves. Apollo is proud of his lyre, Pan of his set of pipes,
and Hephaestus of the artisanship of the fine products of his smithy. Art,
then, is symbolically and literally a bridge between mortals and gods.
The success of Oedipus Rex as one of
the greatest Sophoclean tragedies is largely due to the brilliant interplay
of dramatic irony in the play. From the beginning of the play Oedipus is
ignorant of the dreadful acts he has committed: the murder of his father
and marrying his mother. But the audience watching the play is well aware
of these facts. Therefore every word, every reaction of Oedipus with regards
to the murder lends itself to dramatic irony.
Oedipus speech demanding the people to
reveal the murderer in the initial part of the play is an important instance
of dramatic irony. Little does he realize that in cursing Laius murderer
to live in wretchedness he is cursing himself. This curse does indeed come
true when in the end of the play Oedipus and his family are doomed to a
life of pain and suffering.
Another important instance of dramatic
irony is a little later in this same section when the old soothsayer visits
the king. When Oedipus begins to ridicules Tiresias blindness, he in turn
predicts an unusual circumstance. The angry prophet warns that while Oedipus
can see, he is actually blind (that means he will be denied the truth)
whereas when he will turn blind (i.e. lose his eyesight) only then will
he be able to see (or realize) the truth. It is also ironic that old Tiresias
who has no eyesight can perceive reality accurately.
These cases of dramatic irony lend pathos
to the entire tragedy and enable the reader of the play or the audience
to sympathize with the ignorant and ill-fated protagonist. The effect of
the tragedy is therefore more profound and long lasting.
THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS
Fate, divine laws, and pre-ordinance
were issues that deeply concerned the ancient Greeks as it was a
developing civilization where its faith in the supernatural was
constantly examined and re-examined. In the cosmic order of Sophocles
plays, fate is the overruling order. This does not mean that characters
do not have free will but that they cannot go beyond the cosmic
order that rules the universe. In defying fate, humans are subjected
to being struck down for going beyond their limitations as humans.
To accept this order is to be part of the harmony which rules the
universe. To go against it means disrupting this order and taking
the consequences of ones actions. In
Oedipus Rex, the main theme explored is that fate is character.
This becomes clearer with the study of the tragedy of Oedipus, the
king of Thebes.
No doubt Oedipus was destined to
kill his father and marry his mother, but it is Oedipus own character
which leads him to perform these acts. An impulsive, hot-headed
youth, Oedipus ends up inflicting immortal wounds on his own father
after a mere quarrel. He is obviously ignorant of the fact although
if he had taken the prophecy seriously, he would have avoided conflicts
or interactions with older people. Instead he acts in a rash manner..
Later he successfully solves the riddle of Sphinx. Again, in ignorance,
he marries the widow queen of Thebes, Jocasta, his own mother who
must have been much older than him. Thus the belief that fate and
character are one and the same forms the main theme in
Fate and divine law are explored
on various levels in the play. As the play unfolds the importance
of prophecies is highlighted. This theme is an extension of the
theme of fate. Whereas Jocasta fervently expresses her disbelief
in prophecies, she is the one to realize the ultimate truth of the
situation and dissuades Oedipus from continuing his venture. Her
character also contributes to her eventual downfall. By attempting
to divert catastrophe, she has ironically invited it. Also, knowing
Oediupus nature, Jocasta knows that he will not abandon his inquiry.
Both Jocasta and Oedipus reveal an inability to come to terms with
their past and an aversion to truth. It is these qualities which
bring the ruling family of thebes to ruin. The skepticism they have
of the oracles is in fact an avoidance of truth and understanding
ones place in the cosmic order.
Oedipus wish to unravel the mystery
of his birth is another theme explored in the play. Who one is and
where one comes from are questions which every individual shares,
whether king or peasant. Although it is assumed that Oedipus comes
from noble birth, the mystery of who he is reveals that this many
not be so. It is this what he fears when he begins to question the
messenger on hearing that Polybus was not his father. In fact, although
the play begins as a murder mystery, it becomes more an investigation
of the self. Oedipus can only know his place in the world when his
true identity has been revealed. By understanding who he is and
taking responsibility for this, Oedipus then possesses the power
to save his kingdom from the plague.
This theme gives rise to other
minor themes like the ideals of statehood and the attributes of
an ideal ruler. As the investigations into Laius murder proceed,
the audience witnesses Oedipus character as an individual and as
a king. He certainly conforms to the ancient Greek ideal of a ruler
that suffers with the people and in the end of the play, he suffers
for the people as it is only through the punishment of the murderer
of Laius that Thebes can be restore itself.