Sophocles's Oedipus and Euripides' Medea: Gods in Greek Tragedy

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of ancient Greek culture was Greek mythology Greeks attributed most every event to the gods The gods were highly revered and respected. Two of the most infamous Greek tragedies highlighted how the gods were viewed and addressed during certain situations, Oedipus and Medea show that pride and questioning the gods’ authority will lead to destruction. However, these two tragedies also show differences in how various people may act toward the gods in different scenarios To begin with, both Oedipus and Medea feature prominent male characters that have issues with pride.

In Oedipus, Oedipus’ pride is apparent within his first few lines, “Here I am myself- you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus”, Oedipus knows his fame and wants everyone else to know it as well, Oedipus‘ pride also shows up when he criticizes the citizens of Thebes for praying instead of coming to him, implying that he has more power than the gods.

Ironically, the chorus still acknowledges the authority of the gods regardless of Oedipus‘ constant self»praise, “Zeus and Apollo know, they know, the great masters of all the dark and depth of human life”, Similar to Oedipus, Jason in Medea also displays a great deal of pride. Medea tells him that she no longer trusts Jason because he broke his oaths and questions whether or not Jason believes in the gods anymore, Instead of directly answering Medea‘s question, Jason says that he believes that Medea was not actually the one who saved him on his voyage but the goddess Cypris and god Eros However, if Jason truly believed that it was the gods who saved him, then wouldn’t he be aware of their wrath and therefor keep his oath to Medea?

Because Jason fails to keep his oaths, the gods seem to be in favor of Medea when she seeks revenge After she kills her children, Medea has a chariot provided by the gods to escape on (Euripides 13684369).

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The gods favor Medea because Jason acted out on his pride and left heri On the other hand, Oedipus actually does keep his oaths, But the issue is not only in Oedipus’ disrespect for the gods, but Jocasta’s as well. Jocasta doubts the power of prophesy which can be seen as the power of the gods through people. When the prophet Tiresias is introduced on stage, the chorus leader claims that Tiresias is a “man of god” (Sophocles 339). However, when Oedipus is expressing his concerns about Tiresias‘ prophesy, Jocasta simply tells him that “no human being can predict the future” (Sophocles 782) By saying this, Jocasta doubts the gods’ ability to work through humans.

Perhaps the gods held Jocasta’s actions against Oedipus since he did not correct her and was the ultimate power of the household. Regardless, Oedipus was still guilty of pride and reaches destruction is reached at the end of the play when he blinds himself. Through destruction, Oedipus becomes humble, a drastic transition from the character first introduced in the beginning. This is especially apparent when he says “What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy”. Oedipus has reached a point where he realizes that his life is not even worth looking at, Both Medea and Oedipus show the negative effects of pride. However, one article argues that mythology in the Greek theatre is unnecessary to essential lessons, and contemporary theatre should try to get rid of the themes of mythology. However, a review of a production of Medea shows how these plays are still just as important to our society today.

The review described the set as showing a polluted earth, and various pieces representing the corruption in Medea’s and Jason’s marriage This comes to show how even older Greek mythology plays are still relevant to today. lt’sjust a matter of knowing how to theme and put together a show today. Not only do both plays display the wrath of the gods, but they also show two different ways of talking about and to the gods, In Medea the gods are often referenced in a way that shows the difference between gods and mortalst In the beginning of the play, the nurse is talking about how she sympathizes for Medea and says “For mortals the middle is safest, in word and I deedt Too much is too much, and there‘s always danger a god may get angry and ruin your household” This implies that it is mortals need more balance than the gods do.

The gods have a right to wrath and strength whereas mortals cannot control such things Medea is in such despair when she says, “Myet my spirit is stronger than my mind’s deliberations: that is the source of mortal’s deepest grief” (Euripides 1101-1104), She is in a fight with herself, where she admits how she is weak. However, Oedipus has more of crying out to the gods in despair, rather than highlighting the plight of mortals, This is seen when the chorus cries out “Zeus, Father, thunder Death to nothing!” In Oedipus the gods are respected in that the people are in desperate times, While the situation in Medea is also desperate, it is more focused on one person rather than a group of people This results in people contributing Medea’s current state to the fact that she is a mortal. As one can see, both Greek tragedies show how important the gods were to the Greeks Oedipus constantly depicts the chorus crying out collectively to the gods, Medea shows a chorus that is united over one woman‘s issues The chorus cries out to the gods for help, and the play constantly reveals just how much mortals are stuck Both plays also reveal the destructive path of pride through main characters’ poor actions.

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Sophocles's Oedipus and Euripides' Medea: Gods in Greek Tragedy. (2022, Nov 19). Retrieved from

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