Sophocles and Successive Generations Essay

Submitted By LaDonSmith
Words: 673
Pages: 3

Oedipus Rex Synopsis
The story of Oedipus, which has supplied Sophocles with the most famous of his tragedies, had already been handled by Aeschylus in the central play of his Theban trilogy. Little is known about this composition; but it was probably as simple in structure as the Septem, with which it was written in connection, and bore no resemblance to the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles. The aim of Aeschylus, in his three tragedies, was to trace the course of ancestral guilt, and to exhibit the mysterious workings of destiny during successive generations. Hence it may be inferred that, in his treatment of the story, the emphasis was laid, more on the causes and effects of the crime of Oedipus, than on the actual process of its discovery. Sophocles, on the other hand, prefers to concentrate the interest upon a single point of time, and gives a different moral to the legend, converting it into a picture of the blindness and fallibility of mankind. To effect this purpose he devotes the greater part of the play to the gradual discovery of the murder and the incest, and makes Oedipus himself the author of the discovery, and the unconscious agent in his own destruction. It is he who persists in unraveling the fatal secret, in spite of warnings to the contrary, because he thinks it will benefit himself and his neighbors. He catches at each hint, and pursues each clue, with a light and cheerful heart, little dreaming that every step brings him nearer to the precipice; and it is only when he has reached the very brink, and the truth is revealed, that he perceives, when too late, the extent of his previous folly.
Aristotle, in his analysis of the tragic art, lays it down as a rule that the plot is of more importance than the characters. This statement is hardly true, as applied to Sophocles, in whose dramas, for the most part; the incidents are subordinate to the pictures of human passion. Bur Aristotle was possibly led to take this view by his admiration for the Oedipus Rex, which he regarded as a model drama, and in which, for once, the plot is undoubtedly the chief source of interest. Not that it is constructed on modern lines, or that it appeals to our curiosity by dubious and conflicting alternatives. The general result is clear from the first; but the pathos of the drama lies, not so much in the emotions of Oedipus, as in his actions. The course of events is contrived with so much skill, that everything he does has