In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles Oedipus is told his fate throughout the play. Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother. But Oedipus does not believe the prophecy he is told. He thinks he has to find the murder in Thebes, but the killer is really him. Oedipus is blindly certain that he did not murder anyone. His hubris makes him commit errors. His blind certainty will lead him to his downfall. In the Greek play his error or hamartia will cause other events in the play that are peripetia the turning point, anagorisis when he recognizes his error and nemesis when he is punished for his error.
Oedipus, being the tragic hero, starts off with a high status that he can easily lose. Oedipus thinks he was born royal: he was a prince from Corinth with his parents being King Polybus and Queen Merope. But Oedipus earned the title king if Thebes by outsmarting the monstrous Sphinx. She was sent there to punish Thebes for the murder of Laois, she devours everyone who fails to answer her riddle. Creon offered any man kingship if they could defeat the Sphinx. Oedipus was the only one who was able to outsmart the Sphinx and answered the riddle and ended her reign of terror. The people of Thebes reward Oedipus for being a hero: they gave him the kingdom and kingship of the city. He is respected and admired by his people and the Queen Jocasta becomes his wife. ' PRIEST: Great Oedipus, O powerful King of Thebes! You see how all the ages of our people cling to your altar steps'' (Prologue page 4) Everyone of Thebes loves their great king, they all stand outside his palace at his steps. Since he has such a high status as king, he has a lot to lose, setting him up for his downfall.
Since Oedipus has such a high status as king, he is blindly certain that he could not have killed Laois, which is his hamartia. Because of his hubris, it causes him to commit an error that leads to his downfall. He gets Creon to go to Delphi to find the cause of the plague. Creon says that Laois's death caused the plague. Creon comes back and says ' CREON: He said that a band of highwaymen attacked them, outnumbered them, and overwhelmed the King' (Prologue page 9). He has to find the killer and end the plague, it leads him on his investigation for the murderer. Oedipus states an edict saying the murderer has to be exiled or killed 'OEDIPUS: As for the criminal, I pray to God- Whether it be a lurking thief, or one of a number- I pray that the man's life be consumed in evil and wretchedness.' (Scene I page 13) he is cursing himself, he is the murderer. Oedipus thinks he knows what the Gods are telling him. He puts himself on the same level as the Gods. But he has no idea what they are telling him, even though they already told him he killed Laois he is too blind to see it.
Oedipus starts to investigate the death of Laois by getting Teiresias who could tell him who the true murderer is. Teriesias states that Oedipus is the murderer.
TEIRESIAS: You yourself are the pollution of this country.
OEDIPUS: You dare say that!
TEIRRESIAS: I say that you are the murderer whom you seek.
TEIRESIAS: You mock my blindness, do you? But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You cannot see the wretchedness of your life, nor in whose house you live, no, nor with whom. Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me? (Scene 1 pages 18- 21)
Oedipus is told by Teiresias that he is blind and he even tells Oedipus that he is the murderer. But since he is the king and defeated the sphinx he thinks he's innocent, so he accuses Creon of plotting with Teiresias against him 'OEDIPUS: Kingly position, everywhere admired! What savage envy is stored up against these, If Creon, whom I trusted' Creon desires in secret to destroy me!' (Scene 1 page 20) Creon was never plotting against Oedipus for his crown Creon states that he is satisfied with the amount of power that he has. But this fighting between the two temporarily stops the progress of the investigation of the murder Oedipus is determined to solve. Lady Jocasta also tells Oedipus that there was one man who survived the killing and witnessed what happened. So Oedipus and his wife agree that they should get shepherd who escaped the scene of the crime so he can tell them that there were several men involved in the murder.
JOCASTA: A household servant, the only one to escape' begged that I would send him away' where only the shepherds go- As far away from the city as I could send him.
OEDIPUS: Can he be called back quickly?
JOCASTA: Easily but why?
OEDIPUS: There were three highways' a herald came towards me and a chariot' the groom leading the horses forced me off the road' I struck him in my rage' I killed him. I killed them all:
JOCASTA: What do you hope from him when he comes?
OEDIPUS: This much: If his account of the murder tallies with yours, then I am cleared.
(Scene 2 pages 39- 42)
Oedipus is starting to investigate more about the murder with his wife telling him about the shepherd who escaped from the crime scene, it will lead him on the track of learning the truth about the murderer and how Laois died.
Oedipus has the facts about Laos murder presented to him, but he is too blind to see his guilt. Jocasta even tells Oedipus about how her baby was doomed to kill Laios and baby died with his ankles pierced on the mountain.
JOCASTA: That his doom would be death at the hands of his own son- His son born of his flesh and of mine! By marauding strangers where three highways meet; But his child had not been three days in this world before the King has pierced the baby's ankles and left him to die on a lonely mountainside. Thus Apollo never caused that child to kill his father'' (Scene III, page 36-37)
Jocasta tells Oedipus that her baby had his ankles pierced and was left to die Oedipus is too blind to realize that his ankles have painful and swollen marks from the bonds that tied his ankles together. She even tells Oedipus that Laois's fate was for his son to kill him and her son has the marks on his feet just like Oedipus. The messenger tells Oedipus and Jocasta that King Polybos died from natural causes so they both think that there is nothing to worry about because Oedipus did not kill Polybos his father. But when Oedipus was younger some unidentified individual from Corinth told him that King Polybos and Queen Merope are not his real parents, of course he is blind to this and cannot remember the fact he is adopted. Oedipus' problem escalated to peripetia he thinks Polybos dying was a good thing, but soon realizes that he is not his biological father.
Oedipus recognizes his error he committed when the shepherd and messenger tells Oedipus his story. Since he is the missing link in Oedipus' story, the messenger who received Oedipus as a baby from the shepherd finishes the story and reveals who Oedipus really is.
MESSENGER: do you remember back in those days, that you gave me a baby boy to bring up as my own?
King Oedipus was once that little child.
SHEPHERD: Then' Then the child was from the palace of Laios
OEDIPUS: And I of dreadful hearing. Yet I must hear.
SHEPHERD: If you must be told, then' They say it was Laios' child; but it is your wife who can tell you about that
OEDIPUS: My wife! -Did she give it to you?
SHEPHERD: My lord, she did. (Scene IV pages 59-61)
The shepherd and messenger finally tell Oedipus that he is Laois and Jocastas' child and he now knows that he is the murderer, He ended up killing his father and marrying his mother 'OEDIPUS: Ah God! It was true! All of the Prophecies!' (Scene IV, page 62) He is now no longer blind to his fate, he discovered what has happened to him and how he is now forced to see the truth and how Tiresias and all the prophecies were right all this time. Oedipus finally reached anagorisis and has learned his error and learns his true identity and what his fate led him to become.
Since Oedipus is no longer blind to his fate, he is punished for what he has done, completing his journey as the tragic hero in the play. Oedipus ends up not being able to bear being blind his whole life and seeing all of the mistakes he has made. He can no longer look at his children or the people of the kingdom any more so he gorges his eyes out with Jocastas' brooches from her dress
SECOND MESSANGER: For the king ripped from her gown the golden brooches' and plunged them down straight into his own eyeballs, crying, 'No more, no more shall you look on the misery about me, the horrors of my own doing! Too long you have known the faces of those whom I should never have seen, too long been blind to those for whom I was searching! From this hour go in darkness!'And as he spoke, he struck his eyes-not once but many times. (Exodos page 67)
Oedipus knows his hubris and how he was living his life blind, so he stabs his eyes because he could never look at his parents the afterlife, he could not look at his children, and he could not look at his city because he caused the plague and the gods never predicted that he would stab his eyes out, it was Oedipus doing it to himself not the work of the Gods. He also is banished from Thebes 'OEDIPUS: No. for the love of God, conceal me somewhere far from Thebes' Let me purge my father's Thebes of the pollution of my living here, and go you to the wild hill, To Kithairion'' (Exodos pages 72-74) Oedipus has to leave Thebes to get rid of the plague on his city; he tells them that he wants to be sent far away to Kithairion the mountain he was left to die. The last punishment is Oedipus loses his status as king ' CHORAGOS: but Creon here may fitly judge of what you ask. He only is left to protect the city in your place.' (Exodos page 72) Creon is now going to rule over Thebes because Oedipus will no longer be king or living in the city any more also because he is fit to control the kingdom. Oedipus has reached nemesis he has been punished for his errors and his hubris; he loses pretty much everything he had.
As the play ends Choragos tells everyone to look upon Oeidpus 'Let every man in mankind's frailty consider his last day; and let none presume on his good fortune until he finds life, at his death a memory without pain.' (Exodos page 78) he reminds everyone that they should look at Oedipus as an example. When Oedipus commits his error by ignoring the fact he is a killer. He goes and gathers people to investigate Laios's murder. But as Oedipus learns more about this murder there is irony in his fate of marrying his own mother and killing his father. Once he realizes it is too late and his downfall has already happened. He ended up murdering his father Laois and marrying his mother. As the play finishes, they wanted everyone to know that That no one should consider their life happy until their life is over. Because everything great can disappear easily with a few mistakes and change your life forever.
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