Analysis of Themes in Oedipus the King

The ancient Greek was always considered a cradle of theatrical creation particular because of many playwrights such as Sophocles and Seneca cam. In his play, Oedipus the King, Sophocles makes use of several techniques and means of expression which gives the audience the feelings of despair experienced by main characters. The play seems to bring the pleasure of viewing based on human suffering. It also brings about the historical continuity and cultural identity as it tells about the Greek infamous Oedipus myth.

Oedipus heard the prophesy that he would one day kill his father and marry his mother. He flees from his presumed parents so as to avoid fulfilling the prophecy. Such an act seems to be noble but Oedipus does not know that he would bump into his real parents who were out there. Sophocles dramatizes the myth by introducing little details which reveal Oedipus’ character. The clues where there that Oedipus was an adopted son when he received the prophecy from the Oracle. However, Oedipus didn’t believe in him because the man was drunk. It is his fate and determination to find the truth which leads to his downfall. Throughout the play, Sophocles employs different themes to show that what goes around comes around and that fate is inevitable.

The main theme in the play is self-discovery. Sophocles’ audience knew the myth quite well and wanted to interpret the greatness of Oedipus in his journey to discover himself. At early ages, Oedipus wanted to know his true identity at the expense of his adopted parents. He reveals to Jocasta that a drunken man accused him of not being his parent’s true son. Although his presumed parents reassured him that the information was false, Oedipus was much worried as the story kept spreading.

He reacted in a selfish manner to the way people in Corinth were talking about him. The trouble comes when Apollo reveals to him of the prophecy that he will murder his father and marry his mother. Oedipus decides to leave Corinth forever so as to avoid fulfilling the curse. Little does he know that he is bringing fate closer to him. The desire to seek out his parents and his identity leads to the fate he is eagerly avoiding. The pride displays in his conviction that he will defy Oracle’s prophecy and change the course of his fate. Oedipus scrupulously refuses to shield himself from the truth and brings catastrophe upon himself willingly. He is so competent in the affairs of the men that he comes close to dismissing gods. The more he continues to discover himself, the more he comes closer to his fate (the prophecy). Jocasta warns him not to continue seeking his true identity because it will be his downfall.

Sophocles brings the theme of fate and free will to show that individuals’ fate is determined by gods, but not people themselves. Oedipus suffering and blindness to the truth serves to clarify the power of god’s in determining human fate. After Oracle reveals the prophecy, Oedipus begins to act weird in search of his true identity. Fate seems inevitable as no matter the false information the characters give to each other. No matter what Oedipus does to escape fate, all his actions seem to lead him to the prophecy. Trying to avoid fate, rather than accepting it seems to bring more suffering in an individual’s life. this is evident in Oedipus life. He suffers more in his attempt to escape for the prophecy.

The gods’ command and decision on the people seemed to eradicate the free will and choices the characters make over their lives. The gods’ determination of human fate seems to bring more conflict between them and the ancient Greek people. Oedipus dismisses gods’ prophesy as false information and tries to escape the fate by abandoning his presumed parents. Jocasta also attempts to control the events to avoid the prophecy in an unbelievably awful manner. She and Laius put the pin in their son making him to be lame and scared in life. Jocasta hands the baby to shepherd to kill him but instead, the shepherd takes the baby to Polybius and Merope (Nassaar 148). God’s fate continues to bring Oedipus and Jocasta back together for the fulfillment of the prophecy. Their fate in life seems to be determined no matter what they do to avoid it.

Sophocles brings the theme of blindness in Oedipus willingness to ignore the truth. No character seems to accept the truth about Apollo’s prophesy. They dismiss it as the terrible misjudgment of the power of god. However, upon hearing the prophesy their understanding and vision becomes clear. Teiresias tell Oedipus “you have sight but you cannot see how miserable you are” (Sophocles 10). They try to ignore the truth although they know it can happen. Willful blindness is something which Creon and Jocasta seem to have in common. Jocasta blinds herself by trying to avoid the gods’ prophesy. She gives the baby to the shepherds to be killed. Instead, the baby is taken to Polybius and Merope. When she finds the truth about Oedipus she keeps blinding herself that he just a man whose life is ruled by fear and lack of vision. He encourages to blinded by the truth.

When Oedipus and Jocasta get closer to the truth about the death of Laius, Jocasta convinces him that Laius was killed by the stranger. However, Oedipus knows that he acted alone when he committed a similar murder (Konstan 54). In this moment of the truth-seeking process, both seem to know the truth but they choose to stick with servant’s story that Laius was killed by a stranger. Neither is willing to face the truth of what it would imply if the servant’s story is found to false. They both feel like reminding each other of the prophecy but choose to ignore any possibility of the truth. Fate has been fulfilled despite their unwillingness to accept it.

Sophocles uses the theme of pride to show fate is inevitable. Pride seems to lead the human characters into disregarding gods’ power and limits of human potential. Oedipus is intelligence but pride gets better of him. He is told about the prophecy but he disregards the man because he was drunk. This leads to his downfall because he tries to dismiss the gods’ message. By trying to escape the fate dictated by gods shows the tragic flaws in his pride. Oedipus does not realize that he is condemning himself by letting his pride control his judgment. Jocasta also allows pride to overrule her by discarding his son just to avoid fulfilling the prophecy. She sends Oedipus to be killed just to avoid fate. When Jocasta realizes that the prophecy has been fulfilled, she tries to shield Oedipus from the truth. Jocasta ends up committing suicide after realizing that she couldn’t stand the humiliation and curse.

The play also brings the theme of guilt and shame among the characters. Thebes seems to be suffering from the personal guilt of the death of King Laius because it has not been brought to justice. Oedipus begins enquiring about King Laius death which sets the play going. He knows that he committed a similar murder as King Laius’ but chooses to believe the servant’s story that King Laius was killed by a stranger. The guilty of the possibility of the fulfillment of the prophecy keeps haunting me. Likewise, Jocasta seems to know that Oedipus killed his father, King Laius, but choose to ignore the truth. However, the guilt that he married his son keeps haunting him. Jocasta and Oedipus are overwhelmed by feelings of guilt for violating two basic rules; the taboo of incest and killing of a parent. Filled with guilty, Jocasta remarks “I’ll never speak another word again” (Sophocles. 91). The feeling of guilt and shame forces Jocasta to kill herself because she cannot face what is before her (Revermann, 799). The death of Jocasta increases the suffering or Oedipus to a degree that he could not tolerate anymore. He uses pins to gouge his eyes out, blinding himself permanently.

In conclusion, Sophocles employs different themes to show that what goes around comes around and that fate is inevitable. The theme of fate and free will to show that individuals’ fate is determined by gods, but not people themselves. Through self-discovery, Oedipus tries to find his true identity but ends up getting closer to his fate. Oedipus and Jocasta try to evade the prophecy but they could not stop their fate. When they realize that prophecy is fulfilled, Jocasta commits suicide while Oedipus blinds himself by gouging out his eyes. This play shows that fate is inevitable.

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