Analysis of Sophocles' Oedipus the King

Topics: Oedipus Rex

The real tragedy of oedipus is that of all humanity: we cannot escape our destiny. The greatest tragedy of Oedipus is that as human we cannot escape our destiny. This is shown in the play, ‘Oedipus the king’ by Sophocles. The main character, Oedipus is caught in the problem of fate and destiny. Oedipus, as the king is in a position of power. In this position he becomes quite superior and proud of himself, this becomes a tragic flaw. Ironically, many years before the play is set, Oedipus tries to escape his fate.

It is ironic because in doing this he ends up running straight towards it. The play is made to make us understand that as humans we are powerless against death, and it is true that we are born to die. Firstly, in the play it is ironic that Oedipus tries to run away from his destiny but ends up running straight towards it. When he is younger he hears from a oracle that he is doomed to ‘kill is father and marry his mother’.

Thinking that the oracle is referring to Polybus and Merope he flees towards Thebes to try to escape his ‘destiny’.

It is ironic that while fleeing what he believes is his fate, he runs straight toward it. On page 205 Oedipus quotes the oracle saying, ‘you are fated to couple with your mother, you will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear to see- you will kill your father, the one who gave you life! ’ Oedipus then says, ‘I heard all that and ran.

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I abandoned Corinth, from that day I gauged its landfall only by the stars, running, always running toward some place where I would never see the shame of all those oracle come true. This quote perfectly captures the idea of Oedipus not running away from his fate but straight towards it. The audience experiences dramatic irony in this scene as they know something that the characters do not. In the play, this is a point of mimesis for the characters, but also the audience, when they realise that Oedipus made a great fault, in running from Corinth. The repetitive idea of Oedipus ‘running’ from where he believes is a cursed place for him, to the place where the tragedy will unravel with paucity, is evocative and makes our pathos toward Oedipus greater.

The ironic idea of Oedipus running ‘towards’ his fate rather than away, proves the point that as humans our greatest tragedy is the fact that we cannot escape our destiny. Secondly, as humans we are very proud and do not like to be taken down from the pedestal we put ourselves on. This is true also for Oedipus, where his hubris or his pride, forbids him from believing that he is the one responsible for the plague. In this way his hubris becomes his hamartia and he cannot believe it is his fault until the moment of cognizance a couple of pages later.

An example of Oedipus showing his hubris is when Tiresias reveals that he is the murder and Oedipus replies with a threat, ‘that obscenity, twice, by god, you’ll pay’. Oedipus’ pride gets in the way of him acknowledging that he is not only the protagonist but also the antagonist. He is unable to recognize the truth in Tiresias’ words. This is once again dramatic irony to the audience in which they are aware of Oedipus’ guiltiness, but he is not. Another example of his pride getting in the way, is when instead of accepting the blame he decides that Creon has planned his downfall, in a way to throw him off his throne.

Oedipus says, ‘Creon! Is this his conspiracy or yours? ’, to which Tiresias replies, ‘Creon is not your downfall, no, you are your own. ’ Even after both of these occurrences, Oedipus’ hubris stops him from realising the facts. This is another reason for the fact that as humans we are unable to escape our destiny, because of the pride and superiority that we hold for ourselves In conclusion, it is true that as humans we are unable to escape our destiny.

This is shown in Sophocles famous play, ‘Oedipus the King’. First of all because even though Oedipus tries to outrun his fate, he ends up running straight towards it. This is shown from the way he flees Corinth from his supposed ‘parents’ to Thebes where his biological parents are. It is also shown in humans pride and arrogance that we hold ourselves to. This is shown in Oedipus through his ignorance to the facts. From this we are able to see that we cannot escape destiny as humans.

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Analysis of Sophocles' Oedipus the King. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

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