Oedipus Rex Essay

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Oedipus Rex: Question 1
Oedipus Rex is considered one of the greatest tragic plays to come from any of the ancient Greek playwrights as its lessons mirror societal troubles of the era. It projects certain cultural values and morals onto the Athenian audience of the time through many different tragic conventions. Sophocles, the writer, was born near Athens between 497 and 495 BC and is considered a conservative as all his plays supported the idea of a polytheistic society and that we should not attempt to change our already defined fate. The festival Dionysia, a competition of playwrights where a tetralogy of plays is crafted and judged, brought about the play for the first time in 429 BC and it came in second place to a lost “masterpiece”. With this play Sophocles attempts to convey a model citizen, he slanders hubris or arrogance and glorifies moderation in a personality, essentially he did the city state a favour by stating expectations of social conduct and codes of behaviour. He wrote to describe the danger of questioning gods and working against them and warns of the dangers that come with exuberance and having no tolerance. In the time it was acted the audience would have known the story of King Oedipus all too well, a tragic hero who brings upon his own demise, they too knew of his prophecy and Sophocles used their knowledge so that he could add depth to the portrayal of a model citizen through conventions, rather than focusing everything on the plot.
Sophocles emphasises numerous times that the gods control our fate and have control on our ways of life and in order to show the magnitude of the idea, he instils his theism into the audience of the time, to keep them aware. He successfully shows that opposing the gods only ends in failure no matter how religious one may have been; the best example of this in the play is Oedipus mother and wife Jocasta. When she becomes distraught she yells sacrilegious taunts at the gods saying “Where are you now, divine prognostications!” and all of this blasphemy is soon translated into forms of punishments, later her mistake is realised and in turn commits suicide in the fifth episode. Her ultimate fall is fully expected by the audience as Sophocles foreshadowed it with his ideologue of “only bad things happen after cursing the gods” and thereafter all the events compile into one ironic off stage death. Sophocles uses the messenger wisely as to create pathos and not to minimalise the pity the audience should have, it also gives them time to comprehend his use of dramatic irony to show that people shouldn’t meddle with the gods or fate. Oedipus also begins to show hubris and steps out against the gods in an attempt to please the people with “You pray to the gods? Let me answer your prayers.” The position of this line emphasises how bad speaking against the gods really is and with prior knowledge of the plot Sophocles can elaborate on how he like Jocasta will be punished for being sacrilegious. The audience can realise to the full extent what Sophocles intended meaning was, you should not alter your fate, because they feel pathos for Jocasta and Oedipus when they reveal to each other the same prophecy, which they both tried to change. The two of them depict how they tried to ignore their fate and run away from it proving how fate will always play out no matter what you try and do, Sophocles shows the undiminishing power of the gods with this and again enforces his ideas of conforming. He uses all these conventions just to describe that your fate is set in stone and if you speak out against the gods or deities, whether it be in arrogance or fear, punishment will soon follow, essentially making the audience scared into obedience.

Sophocles exposes another major flaw in the Athenian culture which he wished to change, he made the arrogance blatantly obvious within the character of Oedipus and it was this hubris that the chorus and Creon positioned the audience against. Throughout the