It was Sophocles who wrote the Oedipus Trilogy. Although Oedipus Rex has always been a common oral story to the Greeks, Sophocles added different dimensions in his rendition of the tragic story of Oedipus. Antigone was the epilogue of the trilogy and the last part of the story but it was the first play to be produced. Oedipus the King was the beginning of the trilogy, where the fate of Oedipus was prophesied, and the rise and fall of Oedipus was chronicled. And Oedipus at Colonus is the middle of the trilogy where Oedipus dies and his sons murder each other thus continuing the eventuality of the prophecy.
In Antigone, the final pieces of the tragedy unraveled, thus completing the prophecy of the oracle to Oedipus. In Antigone, the play focuses more on the battle between opposing primary views and concerns. Actually, it was more on opposing pride. Antigone was determined to give his brother an honorable burial despite the fact that the current king blatantly forbids it. She maintains that love is above law and hegemony. Creon, on the other hand, although Polynices is his nephew, forbids the burial on the grounds that it is the law to refuse honorable funerals to traitors.
Although the central characters have opposing views, their attributes are very much similar to each other. Both are blinded by their own pride in their decisions. Antigone, when confronted by Creon, refuses to back down despite the fact that Creon threatened her that her sister will be penalized together with her. Antigone, sees her action as a form of “martydom”. In a way she sees glory in what she had done by “sacrificing” herself for the sake of his brother, which somewhat preposterous because of the fact that his brother is already dead.
Creon, likewise, refuses to change his decision despite his son’s threat of suicide if he condemns Antigone. Although he perceives that his son’s words were not empty threats, he still refused to change his decision. This is because he distinguishes his action as strength of leadership. He mistakes pride for decisive command. Antigone represents moral ascendancy over political law. Creon, on the other hand, symbolizes the primacy of the rule of law above all else. The play attempts to stir the audience to struggle on which side should prevail. Athens, during the time of Sophocles was in its golden age.
Democracy has been the highest point of the era. However, there are certain rules of law that exist to govern the democratic state. The play seeks to arouse questions from among the audience. Whether certain personal morals and filial duty should take over the rule of law when the situation calls for it. Or whether the rule of law should always prevail to maintain order in the society. However, Sophocles drives home the point that there are no extreme grounds. Moral ascendancy and the rule of law are invariably intertwined and should be taken into consideration in making a decision.
In the play it was the comical messenger that best manifested the careful weighing of consequences of his actions when he pondered to and fro on what to tell Creon. It was him that provided a middle ground. His action was the very reflection of the thoughts of the audience. Towards the end of the play, both Creon and Antigone became so blind of their pride in their decision that they were no longer fighting for what they believe is right. Antigone sees her suicide as a form of sacrilegious immolation as if she was giving herself up for the good of her brother.
Likewise, Creon perceives his decision to condemn Antigone as strength of leadership. He thinks that if he pardons Antigone, then he had let Antigone “win”, that Antigone will emerge to be “the man” in the battle. Creon’s and Antigone’s greatest folly is their tendency to oversimplify the situation. Antigone reduced the circumstance to moral ascendancy and Creon to the rule of law. Their pride made them blind that their decision will lead to conflict and deliberation. Like all characters of the play, Oedipus’ tragic flaw is his pride. In Oedipus the King, the rise and fall of Oedipus was accounted to his pride.
His killing of his father was brought about by his pride, his desire to seek the truth of his identity was driven by pride, his edict of severe punishment to the murderer of Laius was brought about by pride and even is in his lowest moment when he eventually discovered the truth he still clung to the last pieces of his trappings as king. However, there is a great difference in Oedipus’ pride and that of Creon’s and Antigone’s. Antigone claims that it was for her love of her brother that she disobeyed Creon but in reality she puts herself in a pedestal with greater morals than Creon could understand.
She masked her pride with proclamations of sacrifice and martyrdom for filial love. Creon, on the other hand, asserts that his actions are but mere implementation of law. However, in truth, Creon revels at the power that he holds upon the kingdom. This is evident even in the play Oedipus the King when Creon demonstrated his newfound power by curtly cutting off Oedipus while he was still mourning his fate. Oedipus pride, however, was disguised as his earnestness. This was exposed when he declared that he would seek all means to end the plague in his nation.
He was so earnest in his demonstrations to the people of his intentions to save his kingdom that he himself cemented his doom. Furthermore, in seeking the murderer of Laius, in his earnestness to punish the criminal, he unknowingly condemned himself. More over, when the truth of his identity was slowly untangling, he was so earnest in wanting to discover the whole truth that he made a way for his ruination. In truth, Oedipus was earnest because he wanted to set himself apart from the rest. He wanted to be a great leader in his nation. His exaggerated demonstrations of his intentions to save his nation were masked pride.
He clearly wanted to be the “savior” of his kingdom. He celebrates at the power that he holds upon the people. This is obvious that he dares insult the oracle when he came to his presence. Moreover, being royals, Jocasta and Oedipus had the tendency to invalidate the fate the gods have in store for them. They have countless times declared that the oracle is false. This is clearly a sign of their pride that they could not fathom that there are any other being that is above them. At the end of the play, Oedipus took responsibility of his actions. But even in his broken state he was still proud.
It was him who commanded Creon to bury Jocasta as he sees fit and to banish him from his nation. Although he no longer has any real power, he still managed to hold on to his last bits of power as a former king. Oedipus the King ended with Oedipus as a broken man banished from his kingdom and disgraced from the society. In Oedipus at Colonus, we find just that, a broken man. However, his brokenness should not be interpreted as newfound humility. Contrariwise, his decent into brokenness left him embittered. In the play, he again questions his fate.
He even questions his sons’ decision in remaining adamant in his exile. The initial scene of the play rightly sets the tone for the story. Antigone was describing their trespass on holy ground that must be corrected with prayers and libation. It is ironing that Oedipus and Antigone, with full knowledge of the wrongness of their action still proceed to commit the deed then proceed to rectify the iniquitous. This is the theme all throughout the play, the characters all seemingly commit an action that they are fully aware that is not correct but still proceed to do so nonetheless.
Again all of which is because of pride. When Creon abducts Oedipus’ daughters, Theseus proceeds to rescue them. He pretends that he did so because of honor and duty. However, in reality, Theseus’ primary objective is to save his own kingdom. In this play, most of the characters have hidden agenda. In the first two plays that Sophocles wrote, the characters were forthright with their motives. Antigone and Creon were so brash and obvious in their thoughts and beliefs in Antigone. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus lack of blunt motives led to his destruction.
But in the third installment, the characters were more masked in their intentions. Even Oedipus, when he refused to go back to his city, he maintained that it was on the basis of his newfound holiness but in truth it was his pride that kept him from coming back. Why would come back to a city that shunned him? Or to the people that eschewed themselves from him? Moreover, in a confrontation with Polynices, he begins to questions his sons actions on why they were apathetic of his exile. He failed to realize that it was him who commanded Creon to exile him in the first place.
Just as he was physically blind, he was also blind from the truth. Even in his deprivation he still was not able to fully see the extent of his mistakes and his pride. In the end, Oedipus’ death was inconsequential. For a character such as him, it is but ironic that his death was portrayed as merely peripheral with only Theseus as witness. Even the lamentations of Ismene and Antigone were not impassionate enough. Sophocles merely pointed out that no matter how great Oedipus was in his former glory, like everyone else, his end is just merely death – a fate that no great man can escape from.