Oedipus: Themes & Devices

Oedipus the King is a popular Greek play also known by its Latin title Oedipus Rex. Oedipus was written by Sophocles and was first performed in 429 BC. Over the thousands of years since its publication, Oedipus the King has been reviewed and analyzed by several renowned scholars who have all conceded that it is one of the best tragic drama pieces that draw their descent from ancient Greece (Rao, Wolf and Sophocles.). The current paper is a critical review of the notions and ideas that the author of this drama piece had in mind as he was writing it.

Also analyzed in the current review are issues on how the major themes and other literary devices employed in Oedipus the King relate to modern events as experienced in the modern world. Oedipus the King is about the character of Oedipus who grew up to be the King of Thebes as once foretold in prophecy.

All the events that were foretold in this prophecy are fulfilled as Sophocles narrates on how Oedipus killed his father, became king and married his mother.

This prophecy was made by Tiresias who, after an argument with Oedipus regarding the killing of Laius. Tiresiaus was a renowned and trusted prophet in Thebes who revealed that the real killer of Laius was a resident of Thebes who was father and brother to his own children and son and husband to his own mother. As later will be discovered, Oedipus, when he becomes king, marries his own mother taking her children as his consequently becoming father and brother to them.

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Disregarding Tiresias advice to abandon the search for the killer, Oedipus orders Creon to be executed. However the chorus that had gathered to witness the determination of the issue by King Oedipus convinces him to let Creon live. Jocasta, the wife of Oedipus (who he later discovers to be his mother) comforts him and narrates a prophecy that had been earlier on been proclaimed by an oracle. The prophecy stated that Laius was to be killed by his own son at the crossroads on the way to a place called Delphi (Frank).

At the mention of the crossroads, Oedipus remembers that he had at one time killed some robbers at the crossroads on the same way to Delphi. Further, the descriptions that Jocasta gives about Lauis fully match those of the man that Oedipus had killed. As the play nears its conclusion, Oedipus the King confirms that he indeed killed his father and married his mother. Upon this confirmation, Jocasta hangs herself. A clearly angry and violent Oedipus, who has still not known that Jocasta is already dead, resolves to kill Jocasta by his sword. Searching her all over the room, Oedipus finally stumbles on her dead body in their bedroom. As he sobs on her body, Oedipus takes out the pins on her robes and angrily plunges them into his eyes rendering himself blind. Oedipus gets off the stage as the chorus laments on how fate is unfair to man.

In the conclusion of the play, the chorus chants the Greek Maxim which goes that no man is fortunate until he is dead. Scholars have been able to document the major themes that Sophocles was addressing in the play Oedipus the King. The major theme that plays out all through the play is fate and tragic flaw. From the onset of the play, Oedipus is depicted as the hero of Thebes who delivered them from the curse that had been placed on the people of Thebes by the Sphinx. However, as the play a progress, due to the flaws that he had led his life with, Oedipus’ life story turns tragic. He kills his father and marries his mother committing some of the worst evils that the people of ancient Greece abhorred. Other characters are also portrayed to have had their unique instances when fate dictated the type of life they led. As the play is concluded, Sophocles is able to point out how the people of ancient Greece believed in fate. He writes that they chanted a Greek Maxim which explained that no man is ever fortunate before he is dead. Another theme that is clear in this play regards to how authorities control their subjects.

In Oedipus the King, Oedipus represents the power of the authorities while the chorus and all other characters, including the prophets and messengers represent the subjects that ruled over by the authorities. Oedipus uses his power to threaten, misrule and he even has the power to kill other humans who he dims guilty just because he thinks they are not truthful. Oedipus, depicted as the authorities who exercise power over subjects, is shown as a character who misconstrues the truth for personal gain. He avoids conceding to the truth and he actually decrees the execution of those he believes might not be telling what the majority of his subjects want to hear. There is also the theme of religion. Sophocles is able to explain the ancient religion of the people of Greek. He explains some of the religious views of these people and elaborates how these beliefs shaped the views that the people of Greece held about individual and communal life. In the play Oedipus the King, it is also clear that the people of Greek believe in curses and spells that other people could place on them.

Prophecy and prophets are also exalted among the people of Greece as they unquestionably trust whatever they utter. For instance, Tiserias, a famous and popular prophet in Thebes, is sought and his arguments about the killing of Laius are minimally questioned. In the long run, his assertions end up being true giving an indication that ancient Greece fully trusted prophets and whatever they prophesied was bound to happen. There are a number of literay devices that are employed in the play Oedipus the King. For instance, irony is used to insist on the importance of the themes and motifs that are outlined in the play. Irony plays out mostly regarding sight and blindness (Haque and KabirChowdhury). In the early sections of the play, Oedipus mocks a blind man but in the end it is Oedipus also ends up being blind. In addition, this blind man who Oedipus mocks as being unable to see ends up seeing the truth earlier than Oedipus, who has sight, is unable to see it as clearly as it is presented to him. As though he laments mocking the blind person, Oedipus literary pierces his own eyes with a pin and ends up being blind. Symbolism is also employed in the play Oedipus the King.

For instance, Oedipus is depicted as having a scar on his left leg. The scar, as Jocasta explains, was inflicted a few hours after Oedipus was bor. This scar symbolizes the fate that was marked on his life immediately after he was born. Just as the scar could not leave his leg, so was his fate that could follow him all through the years of his life. Another instance where symbolism plays out regards to the crossroads where Oedipus killed his own father. In popular world literature, crossroads symbolize instances when an individual has to make important decisions. In his case, Oedipus chose to kill his father and marry his mother thereby fulfilling the prophecy that had been foretold earlier on. In conclusion, regardless of the number of years since it was first published, Oedipus the King has significantly drawn interest for study from several renowned writers.

It is considered as an excellent play that fully employs the major literary elements to convey a strong message that touches on the universal issues that people have to deal with at some point in their lives. Given its conventional and objective narration, Oedipus the King has been translated into well performing movies that have been able to attract large audiences whenever they are screened. The themes and motifs that are addressed in Oedipus the King fully resonate with the daily lives of people on earth. This makes it one of the most popular books in the world which attract readership from all categories of audiences.

Works Cited

Frank, Bernhard. ‘Sophocles’ Oedipus The King’. VEXP 51.1 (1992): 5-6. Web.
Haque, Md. Ziaul, and Fahmida KabirChowdhury. ‘The Concept Of Blindness In
Sophocles€™M King Oedipus And Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman’. IJALEL 2.3 (2013):
112-119. Web.

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Oedipus: Themes & Devices. (2023, Apr 22). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/an-analysis-of-themes-and-literary-devices-in-oedipus-the-king-a-play-by-sophocles/

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