Oedipus Rex Essay
Oedipus Rex, when literally translated, means King Oedipus. Unfortunately the rise and fall of Oedipus is not one of valor or heroism, but of tragedy and dramatic irony. Like in many Greek plays, Sophocles used the common knowledge of the day so the audience could see the futile struggle of Oedipus and his quest to find truth.
Jocasta, the mother of Oedipus, attempts to dismiss the oracles, and surmount fate. When the great Delphi oracles tell her of the prophecy, she attempts to abandon her newborn, giving the baby to a young shepherd with the direct orders of “getting rid of the baby (63).” Oedipus cries out “An unspeakable mother (63)”, only later to find out that the baby the shepherd speaks of is himself. Prior to this forthcoming statement, Jocasta had numerous opportunities to realize the fate of Oedipus; she just couldn’t let the oracles prophecy be true. Oedipus would not have killed his father if he was brought up with Jocasta, but the ignorance of the actors forces them to fulfill the prophecy they tried to outwit.
Oedipus as described in Oedipus Rex is a man of intelligence and reason. It is in this god-complex that Oedipus lives, believing that his ability to outsmart fate makes him equivalent to the gods and their powers. Oedipus is then struck down as a fool when he goes against reason and marries his mother, and kills his father. His attempts to outfox the gods cannot reverse the fate which he tried to overcome. When Oedipus fleas Corinth because of the prophecy that he will marry his mother, he believes that he has outsmarted the gods and put a stopped to this prophecy; when in fact, if Oedipus had not fled Corinth then the prophecy would have been void. The all-knowing chorus says it best, “no prince won such grace of power. And now of all the men ever known most pitiful is this man’s story: his fortunes are most changed, his state fallen to a low slave’s ground under bitter fate (66).”