Oedipus Rex Analysis
The Greek play’ Oedipus Rex’ by Sophocles deals with the basic questions of human destiny and how far one can alter it. Oedipus had tried to run away from the prophesied horror in his life, but the events that took place in his life makes it clear that one can only run into one’s destiny and never away from it. The play cleverly reveals the secrets in the life of the protagonist one by one, which leaves the audiences horror-stricken and aware of the immense power fate has over one’s actions.
The dialogue between Teiresias and Oedipus reveals how ignorant Oedipus had been of his own existence. When Oedipus provokes him with abuses for not disclosing the truths he withheld, Teiresias responds in this manner:
You blame my temper,
But do not see the one which lives within you.
Instead, you are finding fault with me (338-339).
Oedipus had been searching everywhere for the cause of the inflictions on Thebes. There was no reason for him to doubt that the reason could be within him. He seldom thought that his imminent downfall was indeed caused by a chain of events that originated from him. Without realizing that he was the foster son of Polybus of Corinth and Merope, a Dorian, he tries to escape the prophecy that he will kill his father, wed his mother and have children in her. But he comes back to Thebes and kills his real father Laius, weds his mother Jocasta and has children in her. When he realizes these truths one by one, his heartbroken lament is,
Oh Zeus, what have you done?
What have you planned for me? (738)
This is the point where he confronts the harsh truth that his self-righteous acts were, in fact, pushing him deeper and deeper into sin. The way in which destiny had played its convoluted games with him is indeed incredible. The shock of it would be too much for any mortal being, and the worse part was that Oedipus had to punish himself through unbearable suffering. Even as Jocasta, his mother-wife escapes the suffering by committing suicide, Oedipus is not allowed to escape from the wretched existence that he had to lead on. He blinds himself in repentance and the fury that emerges from his discovery that he had sinned against his province as a ruler and against himself as a human being. The self-mutilation, in the end, is inevitable, and in no way sufficient to purge him of the unspeakable sin he had committed.
Oedipus attempts to blame Teiresias and Creon for the fate of Thebes and is shattered when he finds out that it was ignorance that led him to find fault with others when the real culprit was none other than himself. In his hour of utter dismay, he even tries to blame the gods for his destiny:
If anyone claimed this came from some malevolent god,
would he not be right? (993-995)
There may not be an explanation for the extent to which one’s own actions, especially when unintentional, can lead to one’s own moral downfall, but Oedipus Rex interrogates the hidden aspects of the human psyche that are capable of damaging oneself. By depicting a classic example of a man who becomes his own worst enemy, the play remains a cautionary and self-revelatory discourse that has immense mythical significance through centuries.