King Lear Essays

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Sophocles
In Sophocles’ Theban Plays Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, Oedipus is portrayed as an immoral character, more specifically in the first two plays Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. After we find out that Oedipus killed his father and slept with his mother he becomes a distasteful character, but he is not to blame for his actions. The exposition that we are given about Oedipus makes him out to be a noble character. It all goes back to his father and his attempt to avoid a prophecy. For this reason we can’t put all the blame on Oedipus, he was actually trying to avoid the prophecy by leaving his adoptive parents, who he thought were his biological parents. “...what an oracle predicts is bound to happen. Oedipus does what he can to evade his destiny: he resolves never to see his supposed parents again”(Dodds)
Oedipus’ concern for Thebes is what leads him to find out about his actions “...the spirit of Oedipus himself, who when faced with a puzzle could not resist following a fact to its
logical conclusion”(Vellacott). Upon finding out what he had done Oedipus gauges out his eyes as punishment for what he had done. He could have just killed himself and avoided all the suffering that he ended up going through but due to his actions he ended up becoming more humane. It is Oedipus who declares himself guilty, the herdsman whom he questions doesn’t give a straight forward answer on whether or not he had killed Laius. Instead Oedipus takes the information that he is given and proclaims himself to be the guilty one, “Oedipus may have been right all along. His hope has gone unchallenged. Oedipus may not have killed Laius….Oedipus declares the truth he has learned. He declares himself guilty of parricide and incest…”(Goodhart).
After Oedipus finds out about his past he insists that he be exiled to suffer, he had cursed himself when he was demanding information about Laius’ murderer. “Oedipus investigated the murder of Laius and discovered his own double guilt; whereupon locasta hanged herself and Oedipus blinded himself.”(Vellacott). These actions show that Oedipus had great remorse for his actions even though he had not committed the taboo on purpose. We see Oedipus wandering around blind, with his daughters caring for him. We must also take into consideration that these plays were performed for religious purposes. This brings to light the question, does Oedipus really have any say in what he does or is all just fated by the god’s. Looking at his punishment form this point of view we feel sympathy for his sufferings seeing how it is destined by the god’s “Oedipus Rex is 'a tragedy of destiny'. What the play 'proves', they said, is that man has no free will but is a puppet in the hands of the gods who pull the strings that make him dance”(Dodds). Looking at things from this end of the scope we assume that Oedipus is being punished by the god’s and therefore has no control over what is happening to him.
When Oedipus asked to be exiled he was told to stay in Thebes until Creon consulted the Delphic Oracle. Creon feared acting in a way that would anger the god’s, we already have two examples as to what happens to those that go against the word of the god’s. For this reason Creon wished to be cautious, but the oracle took too long to arrive and Creon ended up banishing Oedipus because Thebes was tainted with his presence. When Creon does finally receive the prophecy he realizes that his actions have placed Thebes in danger of being cursed due to the fact that they did not let Oedipus stay. Creon then tries to trick Oedipus into returning to Thebes but Oedipus is wise and knows that Creon is merely trying to avoid a bad fate for Thebes. He curses Creon and Thebes for turning him away.
Now we should consider what is moral? I believe that what he did was immoral but I am taking into consideration the fact that the original