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“I have come myself to hear you---I, Oedipus, who bear the famous name.” (Page 4, 8-9) The Oedipus Cycle - Oedipus Rex, Sophocles. A prophecy created by the gods said that Oedipus was to preform unspeakable acts upon those that he loved. In an attempt to defy this fate, he unwittingly reversed the actions of his parents and made the prophecy reality. In search for the truth, Oedipus encounters deep hardships and moral crimes. And throughout the play it appears as though all of Oedipus‘ actions were in the interest of himself, but he did what he believed to be necessary at the time. Therefore, Oedipus Rex is a story of the man who earned no pain and deserved no embarrassment, but experienced it all nonetheless.

Destined to kill his father and marry his mother, from the beginning Oedipus and those who know him are doomed for an abysmal fate. To avoid this inevitable tragedy, his father King Laius, sends Oedipus to his ultimate demise. Surviving his fathers betrayal and learning of his adverse future, Oedipus does the same as his father. In an attempt to save himself from this hardship, he sends himself away from (who he believes to be) his parents. In the process, Oedipus encounters a nefarious Sphinx and defeats its riddle. He is deemed a hero, and soon after King of Thebes, but as quickly as he goes from fame to power, he kills his father and marries his mother.

Many years later, the people of Thebes assemble in agony over a weak harvest and a merciless plague. Oedipus claims “I will help you in every way I can” (Page 4, 5-6), but promptly afterwards a situation arises in which Oedipus questions his heritage. He directs both his power and time to solving this question, defying his promise to his people. Consoling many who are well versed with recent occurrences, knowledge of the past and the generally wise, Oedipus begins to assemble a story.

His perception of the truth takes an notable turn when he is informed about the location of King Laius’ murder. According to Oedipus, Iocaste’s explanation of the scene “chilled my heart” (Page 39, 2-3). This is the pivotal moment in the play where Oedipus is faced with an choice; he can either refute all insinuations with the implication of him killing his King Lauis, or he can own up to his mistakes like a brazen man would. It is often the climactic point in a play or script when the main character is faced with a choice which determines his/her overall quality (whether they should be judged or praised). The answer may also allude to a character change, where the intent of a character has entirely changed due to new information or an event which refines the character. Oedipus decides to obtain some time to rethink things and simultaneously avoid self-incrimination by explaining “I have taken too much upon myself without enquiry,” (Page 41, 14-15).

Oedipus’ misfortune, engenders an enormous amount of pity from the audience and even those who he had treated arbitrarily. Leaving any story with a chagrined main character can be a difficult experience, however, Sophocles treats this matter with care and respect. Oedipus comes to means with his wrongdoings, but with the suicide of both his wife and mother (1 person - Iocaste), his literal and figurative character are joined. Oedipus sullenly blinds himself in order to communicate that he is unable to see beyond what is superficial. In spite of all this, Oedipus’ reluctance to question and curse the Gods shows character development and his evolution from a frivolous king to a perspicacious elder.

Works Cited

The Myth of Oedipus. Class Handout. September 2009. Sophocles: The Oedipus Cycle. Translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Sand diego: harcourt brace and Co, 1939.