My Copy: 9781593082352 (image from Amazon.com)
There are two plays in particular by Sophocles that most Americans have been subjected to in high school. Either it was Oedipus The King (aka, Oedipus Rex) or Antigone (which was actually written first).
My school had us read Antigone, and eventually I’ll get to that one.
But the story started with Oedipus the King.
For those who don’t know or remember the story, Oedipus is a man in Greece who begins as the King of Thebes, a powerful city in the Greek world. Unfortunately, the kingdom is having trouble with plagues and other calamities because the gods are apparently angry that the former king, Laius, had been killed and his murderer not discovered. Oedipus became king by defeating the Sphinx and marrying the recently-widowed queen. Oedipus commands that the murderer must be found and punished harshly. The problem is, Oedipus doesn’t realize that he himself was the killer of Laius in an ancient world version of road-rage.
More than that, he was Laius’ son, given away to be killed to avoid the prophecy that stated the boy would kill his father and marry his mother.
Ah, fickle fate, what a bitch you are.
Thanks to reading Antigone first, I had a good idea what was going to happen in this one, but I still enjoyed it. I think it was the determination of Oedipus, plowing through to find the truth—rather blindly and stubbornly—though he had been warned repeatedly that he wasn’t going to like the answer.
I admire Oedipus for his honesty and desire for the truth, but wow. Apparently just being born screwed everything up and he never should’ve lived.
I love how the general theme comes about, though, in that trying to avoid fate, Laius’ actions precipitated it anyway. Guess the central message was “don’t mess with fate because it’ll knock you down every time.”
This is the first story of the Oedipal trilogy (but the 2nd story written). Oedipus at Colonus is the second play and will probably shed further light on the events that culminated in Antigone.
Worth a read so far. Continues Wednesday.
2 thoughts on “Three Theban Plays: Oedipus The King, by Sophocles”
Its interesting, how far backward Freud got the Oedipus story in his thinking of the “Oedipus Complex”.
I was waiting for somebody to bring that up, and almost did myself. But yeah, it’s a world of difference if he didn’t know Jocasta was his mother vs. being in the know and still attracted. It’s been too simplified.
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