The play takes place on a single platform, but camera work creates the effect of a certain space – a palace in the city of Thebes. Actors can be easily distinguished from the chorus by the details of the costumes and the size of their masks. Actors all wear monstrous masks and costumes of dominating colors that remind us of grotesque, making all characters seem as mythical creatures. For instance, Oedipus, the lead, in a mask of cold expression and gold-colored costume illustrates an animated statue.
Or, blind Tiresias, who is the ancient prophet, wears a greyish-colored mask and costume that resembles with a giant bird skeleton. In my opinion, the costume designer tried to create the effect of the sacred ritual and show that it is one of the main aspects of Greek theater.
Throughout the play we can see that Sophocles tries to emphasize the power and control that the Gods had over human world. The predictions in Oedipus’s life seem to be inevitable as he attempts to avoid the prophecies he actually runs straight into fulfilling them.
This shows the role of fate versus free will and the power of the Gods in Greek society. Analyzing Oedipus’s actions, we question whether Oedipus’s disruption was the fault of this free will or almighty Gods’ fate. Oedipus leaves his Corinth parents whom he believed to be his birth parents to avoid prophecy by his own will.
He killed King Laois whom he thought to be just a citizen by his own will. He married his own mother and became father to his mother’s children by his own will. During the whole play Oedipus was blind to the fact that his own free will brought himself to his fate. Some may argue that the Gods created Oedipus’s fate, others believe that Oedipus with the acknowledgement of the prediction led himself to his own fate. Upon anagnorisis, both Oedipus and his mother Iocasta enter into depression from which they escape with physical harm to themselves.
The symbol of this tragic play is the title itself, Oedipus The King. During the whole play Oedipus resist his internal battle with his fate, which was already predestined upon his birth. When his birth parents, Iocasta and Laois, found out their son’s terrible future, they tied Oedipus’s feet and left him to die. Hence, the name Oedipus, from Greek translation means swollen foot, relevantly symbolizes his inevitable fate from the birth. Another symbolism that appears in the play is the vision. Tiresias, the prophet, is literally blind, but he can see Oedipus’s past, present and future. Oedipus’s vision is perfectly fine, but he is completely blind to his fate the Gods have placed upon him. His ignorance on this key matter made even more ironic by the fact that he was famous for his insight when he solved Sphinx’s riddle and rescued the kingdom. Later, when Oedipus finally sees the horrible truth of this life he stabs out his own eyes, saying that he cannot look on the horrors of his actions. This is when he literally becomes the person he has always metaphorically been – blind. In addition, at the end of the play Oedipus symbolizes the whole humanity, stumbling forward through a dark and unknown future.
The play also has several examples of some Aristotle’s plot devices: peripeteia, anagnorisis and catastrophe. Peripeteia is a reversal of intention or a turning point. In play this happens when Messenger returns from Corinth and tells the King that he is not Polybos’ son. Even though he intends good by saying that, he actually forcefully drives Oedipus to meet his fate. Anagnorisis means a recognition. In Oedipus Rex it happens when Corinthian Messenger and the Theban Shepherd assert Oedipus that he has unwillingly fulfilled his fate he has tried to avoid. Just as the peripeteia directly leads to the anagnorisis, the anagnorisis leads to the catastrophe, which is the horrible suffering. As soon as the truth is exposed, Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus stabs himself in the eyes and wants to be banished from the kingdom. These three elements make Oedipus Rex the gold standard of tragedy.