Oedipus in Oedipus the King: Character Analysis
Call him the hero or the villain in the Oedipus play by Sophocles, but the fact remains that King Oedipus is the protagonist of the play. The character of King Oedipus is something that actually flows well with the plot and theme of the play.
The first impression that readers would have of King Oedipus is to see him as a valiant hero. He is also a very confident and courageous king and this was due to power that he wielded as the king of Thebes. Oedipus saved the city of Thebes from their adversaries. He played the role of a savior that came to save the people from their oppressors. The people had fate in him as their king as he was accepted by them as their king.
Though Oedipus had some bad sides, the fact remains that he had some virtues that should be extolled. One of the virtues that Oedipus possessed is self-confidence and courage. Though this has nothing to do with morality, the truth is that it was Oedipus’ courage and self-confidence that made him solve the puzzle of the Sphinx. In spite of the fact that the Sphinx threatened to kill anyone that fails the riddle, Oedipus was still courageous and confident of himself that he would solve the puzzle. Oedipus the King also had the ability to unravel mysteries. This strength was clear for all to see when he solved the riddle of the Sphinx close to the beginning of the play (Sophocles et al).
One noticeable weakness in the character of Oedipus was pride. Oedipus allowed his bravery and intelligence to get to his head forgetting that it was the gods that bestowed him with such qualities to benefit the city of Thebes as a whole in the first place. It could be argued that Oedipus regarded himself as a god as this was the only justifiable reason that he spat the gods. Oedipus’ pride was seen when he told the Chorus that he could grant their prayers of deliverance. This is actually pride as it is only the gods that have the sole right to answer prayers and Oedipus was arrogant and proud to have put himself in the place of the gods. Another thing that Oedipus was guilty of in the play was his quickness to blame other people for the problems that he actually caused. When all evidence was against him that he was the one that murdered Laius, he quickly blamed Tiresias of hatching the plot to kill Laius and blamed Creon for conspiring to steal his crown and throne (Sophocles et al). Oedipus believed that he could do anything as he so pleased and this was the reason for most of his actions. One detail in Oedipus the King that seems to be intertwined between reason and irrationalism, fate and human agency and human volition and the will of gods is the events that led to the usurpation of power by Oedipus. Another thing that represented a conflict between reason and irrationalism was when Oedipus like his father tried to avert his fate by running away from Corinth when he heard that he was going to kill his own father as he tried to use his own human means to stop his destiny not knowing that he was actually walking into it. Oedipus eventually killed his own father thus fulfilling the prophecy and the fact that he actually believed that Laius and his followers were a band of robbers does not mean he had a good reason to take the law into his hands by killing him and this shows the conflict between reason and irrationalism as he thought he actually had a good reason to kill Laius, but he was actually irrational. When Oedipus was made the king and was given the privilege to marry Jocasta, there was a conflict between the will of God and human volition, reason and irrationalism and fate and human agency as the Thebans actually thought they were rewarding Oedipus for eliminating the Sphinx, not knowing that it was actually the will of the gods for this to happen as they played a part in determining the fate of Oedipus (Sophocles et al).
The fact that Oedipus, a prince of Thebes was raised by Polybus, King of Corinth showed that it was the will of the gods for Oedipus to fulfill his destiny as the King of Thebes. Oedipus had several conflicts with Creon and he was forced to humble himself when Creon became king. When a man loses power, he loses almost everything. Oedipus’ loss of power and authority was what influenced his change in metaphysics. Oedipus slept with his mother Jocasta and it is important to note that, this was already predestined by the gods as Apollo had already said that this incestuous relationship between son and mother was going to happen. The story teaches readers that the actions of men are influenced by the gods (Sophocles et al). Oedipus killed his father, Laius and slept with his mother, he tried to prevent this from happening by running away from home, but instead of running away, he ran into his destiny. The story of Oedipus shows that there is little that humans can do to change things that have been predestined to happen.
Oedipus quickly turned from a hero to a villain when he could not solve the mystery behind the death of Laius, who turned out to be his own father. The transformation of the character of Oedipus was seen when the hero turned to a tyrant and the blessing of the gods to the people of Thebes soon turned to a curse.
Works Cited: Sophocles, Fagles, Robert MacGregor, Bernard & Knox, Walker. The three Theban plays New York: Penguin classics, 1984