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Sophocles, Oedipus the King Essay

The following analysis will examine Oedipus the King, by Sophocles. The following questions will be addressed: What is the historical context of this period? What are the storylines, as revealed in the document? What does the document reveal about the Greek notion of fate and free-will? Who was the author and does he reveal a bias? What was the author’s intent in writing this and whom did he see as his audience? And lastly, what stands out as particularly meaningful and why?

The historical context of the period reveals the Greeks believed the gods could see everything that humans did and could, if they choose, fulfill such needs as food, shelter and clothing as well as wants like love, wealth and victory. [1] The Greeks were often described as “independent-minded” and there seems to be no doubt that geography played a major role in shaping that character. It was the mountains and the sea that molded Greece and Greeks into what they were. [2] Polytheism is a belief in many gods and syncretism reflects a willingness to add foreign gods into the belief system-even if the new additions don’t exactly fit. 3]

Fate was very important to the ancient Greeks, which played a huge role in there daily life actions and behaviors which they believed would affect their fate in life. The Greeks created Greek mythology; this was the body of their myths and teachings. It was concerning their gods and goddesses, their heroes, and the nature of the world to them. “It was God that aided you, men say, and you are held with God’s assistance to have saved our lives Now Oedipus, Greatest in all men’s eyes, here falling at your feet we all entreat you, find us some strength for rescue. [4]

The storyline of Oedipus- the King, Sophocles starts in front of the palace of Oedipus at Thebes. Oedipus is the King of Thebes, this is where the play is based around. “Oedipus the King” was believed to be written around 430 B. C, in the city of Thebes. A horrible plague has come into this city, making everyone sick and dying. Oedipus comes through the central doors to find a priest and a crowd of children praying to the gods to free them from this horrible curse, the plague. The priest is begging Oedipus to go and save the city.

Oedipus explains to the priest how he has sent Creon who is his brother-in-law to speak to Apollo at his Pythian temple to find out how to save the city. Once Creon arrives back he tells Oedipus what he has heard from God. He explains that God commands them to drive out a pollution from their land, a pollution that had grown ingrained within their land. They were talking about when Laius was murdered. Lauis was the king before Oedipus had piloted the state. His murdered was said to happen many years before this plague had happened, and no one took any action into finding out what happened, or who had done it.

Everyone who was with Lauis at the time was killed as well, except for one messenger who fled in terror. This messenger could only speak of one thing; how there were many robbers, and this king was killed by many. Now Oedipus goes on trying to solve this murder in order to help his city. He soon will learn of Creon turning against him. He then turns to his wife Jocasta to help him better understand events that lead up to the death of Lauis, and to understand more about the death of Lauis. After this is done you start to get an understanding of what this play is really about.

The notions of fate and free-will are revealed during the play when they are talking about Oedipus’s life. This is a dramatic tale of a great king who is brought down by “fate” and the destiny of the gods. Prophecy is one of the main things of Oedipus the king. Oedipus tells Jocasta whom is his wife, of a prophecy he has heard as a young man. This prophecy was that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother. Jocasta then tells Oedipus of a prophecy just like his that was given to Laius; her son would grow up to kill his father. Oedipus seems only to want to flee his fate, but his fate continually catches up with him.

OEDIPUS: “Why should man fear since chance is all in all for him, and he can clearly foreknow nothing? Best to live lightly, as one can, unthinkingly. [5] Oedipus has a strong will to find out about his past, and to discover the truth about things in his life. Jocasta is the one trying to keep him from clearly getting answers to things he wants to know. “Jocasta: I beg you- do not hunt this out- I beg you, if you have any care for your own life. What I am suffering is enough. [6] Oedipus then responds to her showing us how he is free willed and wants to know his fate in life. Oedipus: Break out what will! I at least shall be willing to see my ancestry, though humble.

Perhaps she is ashamed of my low birth, for she has all women’s high flown pride. But I account myself a child of Fortune, beneficent Fortune, and I shall not be dishonored. [7] It just proves that Oedipus has a strong will of finding things out no matter what happens. He believes his fate will play out one way or the other. The author of Oedipus is Sophocles was an innovator of drama. His main stories were, Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus. These three were well-known as masters of tragedy. 8]

Sophocles’s most famous surviving work includes the Theban plays: Oedipus Rex (sometimes called Oedipus Tyrannus) Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. There are different quotes through out Oedipus the King that leads you to believe Sophocles as an unbiased writer in this play. “But do not charge me on obscure opinion without some proof to back it. It’s not just lightly to count your knaves as honest man, nor honest men as knaves. To throw away an honest friend is, as it were, to throw your life away, which a man loves the best. ”[9] There are so many different lessons to be learned in Oedipus the king.

These are lessons I believe that everyone today could benefit from. It shows the downfalls of someone being arrogance and selfishness, what kind of actions can happen from being judgmental, and the repercussions of being quick to act without sufficient knowledge. These are things that a lot of people in the world do not understand well, and a lot of times many people do a lot of things with out thinking or worrying about any repercussion. The author’s intent is clear because he shows you that we shouldn’t temp fate. What’s going to happen will happen, and in this case it did happen in a disaster.

Jocasta: Do not concern yourself abut this matter; listen to me and learn that human beings have no part in the craft of prophecy. [10] It seems apparent that the intended audience would have been the people who already knew the Oedipus story. These people would experience the effects of a dramatic irony’ as they watched the unfortunate events play out during the play. In conclusion, what stands out as meaningful from Oedipus’s story is that no matter what you try to do fate will always win. You can not do wrong to someone or something and get away with it.

Over time it’ll come back to you and it won’t always work out the way you want it to. This historical period has lead you through a time when someone did something wrong and was taught a lesson. In Oedipus’s story you gain an insight of the Greek tragedy, and you learn about fate and irony. Learning about fate and free will is something that allows you to get a better understanding of the two. When you see something happening to someone that’s so tragic, it gives you a better understanding of the meaning, and allows you to see things really do happen to people who do wrong.


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