Oedipus Rex in Oedipus the King Term Paper

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Oedipus Rex

In Oedipus the King by Sophocles, the central character is high-born, a king, and a man of power, but by the end of the play he has been destroyed. He loses his kingdom, his sight, and his place in society. His sin is not simply blindness, though the literal blindness at the conclusion evokes the idea of his metaphorical blindness before that. His crime is pride, seen as a particularly egregious sin in the Greek view. The sort of pride detailed in the Greek myths is often called hubris, though in fact hubris haws a broader meaning than simply pride. Oedipus fails to take proper precautions even though he knows his fate from what the Oracle has foretold, but he does not exercise sufficient care to avoid that fate. The failure is because of his pride, because he sets himself above the gods and believes himself to be invulnerable.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Oedipus Rex in Oedipus the King by Assignment

In Oedipus the King, cultural memory is central and often represented by the Chorus, which recognizes the nature of the prophecy that Oedipus has essentially ignored. The prophecy itself is a cultural memory, a warning meant to be heeded, and when broken, a sign to others not to make the same error. Oedipus's parents, Laius and Jocasta, are told that their offspring will kill the father and marry the mother. In order to avoid this fate, the parents place the child on a hill and leave him. The boy is instead raised in another household, but he is told about the prophecy by the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle does not tell the boy who his parents really are, and he does indeed meet and kill his father and marry his mother. He then rules for years unaware of his crime. He has not forgotten his crime, for he does not realize he has committed it. From the point-of-view of the gods, though, he should have known this would happen and should not have killed anyone or married at all. At the same time, it is always clear that he had no choice because the prophecy was a statement of fate and could not be avoided, which really suggests that human memory of the prophecy is in some ways irrelevant. As Teiresias says, "Alas, how terrible is wisdom when / it brings no profit to the man that's wise!" (Sophocles lines 316-317). Oedipus could not use his memory to avoid the crime, for he could never really avoid the crime at all. He was foreordained from the first to do just as he has done.

This indicates that the memory that counts is the social memory of the people, who are to learn humility and to heed the words of the gods. From a point-of-view outside the Greek society of the time, even this may seem futile, for if all actions are preordained, then individuals have no choice whether to heed or not. The essence of the Oedipus myth revolves around personal responsibility in the Greek conception. Even though Oedipus appears to be the victim of a series of circumstances so that what happens to him should be no fault of his own, in the Greek view this is not the case, and the essence of Greek tragedy begins with the recognition that the hero is responsible even for actions he cannot control, especially when the failure involves overweening pride, as in the case of Oedipus:

The gravest crimes, the most senseless adventures have sprung from the self-regarding gaze, and though we make poetry of pride in the West, and pretend to ourselves that there are some forms of pride which are legitimate and others which are not so, the most deathly instrument placed in the hands of man remains the mirror. (Payne 301)

The structure of the three plays about Oedipus by Sophocles covering this myth shows that Oedipus should have known what he was doing even if he did not and that his stubbornness in the face of growing evidence as to his crime leads to his downfall.

Raymond Williams indicates that there is something definite that can be considered tragic, differentiating it from other experiences: "Certain events and responses are tragic, and others are not" (Williams… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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