Oedipus Rex Themes

Oedipus Rex Themes

The analysis of the primary themes of one of the most popular disasters of Sophocles. The reasons why these styles are still so acute in contemporary society and the catastrophe is so popular amongst the audience of the twenty-first century.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles is one of the most popular pieces of ancient Greek literature that became the foundation of modern-day tragedies. Sophocles’ works motivated great deals of playwrights including William Shakespeare himself, and established the concepts of dramatic paradox and classical tragic characters.

The catastrophe of Oedipus and his household lies in the truth that both he and his parents (biological ones and the couple who embraced him) are decent people and smart rulers. It is the destiny that above mortals and even gods, that damages their lives in the most horrible way. Oedipus is destined to kill his father and wed his mother– the two acts that are the most horrible for the Greek morals. He dedicates all his life to avoiding this, however ends up unwittingly doing precisely what the oracle informed him.

The story of Oedipus ends up being a lot more awful when we see him revealing his most redeeming qualities like him spending time with his household or caring about his individuals. We know that he is the very best ruler his country can get, yet he condemns himself (or, technically, the killer of the previous king, his daddy) and promises to penalize him in the most embarrassing and uncomfortable method. In the end, losing everything he had and everybody he enjoyed, Oedipus says his goodbyes to his children– remaining a caring daddy to the very end– and executes the punishment by his own hands.

Oedipus Rex also has really deep and supportive secondary characters. Each of them has their own history, their own virtues and vices and the author makes certain that we do care about them before trampling them with the heavy foot of destiny.

Listed below there is the list of the primary styles of this catastrophe. We can see that this list nearly totally can be associated with the existential concerns the modern people ask themselves. Potentially, this is the primary reason of appeal of Oedipus Rex in modern theaters.

Fate and Free Choice

The Oedipus Rex style of fate and free choice is portrayed rather blatantly by Sophocles: there is no free choice. Duration. The human beings, no matter how excellent they are, are simply the chewing toys of fate. The contrast of Oedipus’ character– an obedient and loving son– and the horrifying prophecy that condemns him to take part in murder in incest makes the disaster really terrible. The free choice of King Oedipus is to avoid the fulfilling of the prophecy by any cost. He deserts his task as a future ruler, leaving from house and, really, disowning his moms and dads. Regardless of all Oedipus’ love to them he is all set to compromise his own joy and track record to save them from death and disgrace.

Oedipus kills King Laius in self-defence. He didn’t know Laius was his real father, moreover he didn’t even know that a big-headed and aggressive old guy with bodyguards is a king. When he pertains to the city and helps in resolving the problems gathered in the lack of the King, he wins the hearts of the people and his biological mother– Jocasta. It is logical for him to wed the widow Queen to inherit the throne as individuals wanted.

Up until the very end Oedipus attempts to eliminate fate, however when everything is exposed he has no choice than to accept it and to keep his own word, blinding himself and going to exile. Sophocles leaves us with one crucial concern: if the fate is so omnipotent that free choice suggests nothing– can the person be accountable for their deeds at all?

Origins and children

The theme of origin in Oedipus Rex is raised a number of times. At first, when Oedipus is embraced by the royal number of the neighboring country, it leaves us in doubt: where are his origins now and who are the moms and dads that are in danger? Then, when Oedipus flees from his house and discovers his brand-new place as partner of Jocasta and beneficiary to the King Laius, he thinks about that his ties with his homeland and household are totally severed, but in reality he just went back to his homeland and to his family– however in an odd method, becoming a hubby of his own mom. So, the household line ends up being tangled and complex, because the children Jocasta brought to life are both Oedipus’ children and siblings.

The theme of origins is likewise very essential considering the narrative design of the play: we see occasions in retrospective. So whatever has already happened and, while Oedipus, now the adult guy, the dad and the king, continues his investigation, trying to save his country from menstruation, the story starts to reveal. So, examining the case of King Laius’ murder, Oedipus returns to his origins and finds the terrible fact about himself.

Light and darkness

The importance of light and darkness is the repeating Oedipus Rex style. Light is associated likewise with understanding and sight, while darkness is associated mostly with knowledge and blindness. These signs are linked so firmly than in some cases we can’t distinguish which is which. The most prominent example is the blind oracle Teiresias. He invests his life in total darkness, because he is blind. He is defenseless in ordinary sense, not having the understanding about the ordinary things like color of the things or faces of individuals– but he has the inner sight, the wisdom and the capability to see the future– something that individuals with regular sight can’t do. So, Teiresias is unconcerned about the present, however he plainly sees the future.

Oedipus, on the contrary, sees completely and possesses an exceptional intelligence and understanding. He had a childhood of a prince, finding out a lot, and he is a proficient King now. He rules perfectly well and is really smart about his present, however his sight avoids him from seeing the future– so grim that even Jocasta, who discovers the reality before him, asks her hubby (and son) to let bygones be bygones and not search for the murderer of Laius. In the end, Oedipus keeps his guarantee to blind the murderer, plucking his own eyes out. Symbolically it means that he has actually seen so much of dreadful fact that he can’t stand it any longer and he does not wish to look into the eyes of his family in the afterlife, since he disgraced his moms and dads a lot. Blind, Oedipus stops controlling today– he is not a King anymore, but a mere criminal and exile– and predicts his bleak future and short life.

Knowledge and Knowledge

Wisdom and knowledge are various things in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Knowledge is something that Teiresius has– the inner understanding about the nature of things. In more ordinary sense, Jocasta is sensible. She doesn’t have the knowledge of Oedipus to continue the investigation, however she has the gut feeling that something is incorrect with it. Her instinct leads Jocasta to the only possible response even previously than Oedipus deduces it.

Oedipus, from the other hand, has lots of knowledge, but much less of wisdom. He is experienced and intelligent King, but conceited and self-righteous, figured out to do anything to achieve his objective. He doesn’t listen to Jocasta’s pleas to stop and gets to the fact … the truth that damages him.

Had he never ever asked Teiresius about his future, not utilizing the knowledge of the oracle, or had he not enough understanding to examine the case of Laius’ murder– Oedipus could have lived gladly ever after. But he was so excited to discover the reality in spite of various caution, that the success ruins not just his life however the lives of all his dearest people. The author strongly implies that in some cases joyous ignorance is the best that can take place to a person, however a smart King has no right to be ignorant, when the case is connected to the governmental concerns. For poor Oedipus it is no win situation.

Pester and health

The afflict that falls on Thebes is what opens the play. The style of afflict and health is mainly symbolic in Oedipus Rex. The mysterious blight renders fields, livestock and women barren and the oracle declares that only discovering the killer of the previous King can recover it. Oddly, we see that the royal household is resistant to the disease, like the destiny desires them to be mentally and physically healthy when the reality is revealed.

The health of the country comes just with the disease (or, rather, blindness) of King Oedipus. From the pragmatic viewpoint he simply remains faithful to his pledge to the very end, though the condemned individual and the administrator are both himself. However metaphorically, King Oedipus distributes his own health to treat his people from pester.

We see in the play that both afflict and health are divine interventions, so the state of health of an individual totally depends on the will of the gods. It is logical for the ancient Greece where there was no microbiology, but for us, as contemporary individuals, this concept might occur extremely outdated and we may even not see it at all.

Prophecy, oracles, and predestination

The predestination style in Oedipus Rex works as a meta one. The ancient Greek audience who knew the initial myth, already knew also that Oedipus is doomed. So, when they saw him in all his magnificence, as a King and a pleased hubby and father, they recognized that it would not last long. This understanding offers us a strong example of dramatic paradox: an unconcerned viewer will conclude that all Oedipus’ misfortunes occurred unexpectedly, however somebody who understands the origins of the story will have anxious feeling that soon whatever Oedipus has and loves will be ruined in the worst method possible.

Another example associated to predictions– a living example– is Teiresias. He appears to King Laius and to Oedipus himself, to provide his awful vision. He isn’t evil, however he is the servant of the fate who can do nothing however respond to the asked questions. The author raises the 2 strong questions. The first one is can anyone defeat a prophecy? Oedipus tries so tough as Laius did previously. Laius purchased to kill his firstborn and only child just not to be killed by him– and still got killed by oblivious Oedipus. Jocasta could not understand that Oedipus was alive, so wed a stranger Prince her people loved so much. The 2nd question that undoubtedly appears in our heads is if knowledge about one’s fate is necessary? Had Laius or Oedipus not asked Teiresias about their fate, they might both live a pleased life. Laius still would perhaps be killed, but without living his life as a killer of his own son.

Youth and age

We do not see many individuals aging throughout the play however this is one of Oedipus Rex themes that exists there metaphorically. Sophocles puts all the action into the brief time period, however we see that Oedipus begins as a matured male, a mature and accountable King and patriarch who is all set to take obligation for his people. When the story begins to relax, we see another Oedipus– a young and naive Prince, so generous in his desire to secure his family that he sacrifices everything he needs to do so. In the end Oedipus is blind and weak and has to be guided by his children.

These 3 ages of men, in the sense of the answer to the Sphinx’s concern, are plainly displayed in Oedipus Rex, representing Oedipus’ journey from his innocence to power and after that to the shattering of whatever he had and his metaphorical death. Even Jocasta, his mother and better half, goes through similar change: we see her as a girl, a delighted young mom, then a widow Queen, who is both motherly and wise adequate to help Oedipus with investigation– and after that she becomes ravaged and jaded and kills herself, ending her life as an embittered empty shell of a female.


In this play by Sophocles determination is both positive trait of Oedipus and his fatal defect. He is determined from his very childhood. He can’t go too far to secure his family: instead of considering other variations, or a minimum of asking his moms and dads and learning that he was an embraced child, so he is safe in his palace, he chooses to leave immediately. Decision and self-righteousness make him commit his first mistake. The 2nd is when Oedipus refuses to accept Laius and go back from the road. He risks to no extent, arguing with the guy with an armed guard. He might easily be killed, however he still selects to participate in a battle and kills Laius, though fulfilling the very first part of the prophecy.

As a King Oedipus reveals the same decision. Naturally, he doesn’t have much option: his land is cursed by mystic afflict till he finds the murderer. Still, he goes so far when everyone begins to believe that some reality should be hidden forever. Even when Jocasta herself, generally as persistent and figured out as he is, freely begs him to stop, he angrily sends her away. So, decision, the quality that is really needed for a King and normally is a virtue, becomes the factor for Oedipus’ downfall.


Power is a problem in Oedipus Rex, and also something that blinds most characters who are too clinging to it. King Laius is so consumed with losing his throne to his boy that he chooses to eliminate him without giving the young boy a possibility. He has the power to order another guy to kill his son– but he has no guts to kill the boy himself, blindly believing that the shepherd will complete his order in a best way.

The next use of power ends up being a reason for Laius’ death. It is he who starts the argue about stepping far from the road. Typically individuals who fulfill on the road can solve the issue in a civilized way, however here it was a battle of status. Laius wants to reveal his power over an anonymous stranger (like it isn’t apparent when you are a King with armed guards and luxurious clothes prior to a single pedestrian) and is eliminated for this attempt.

As a King Oedipus is no much better than his daddy. He is a big-headed ruler, who rules good certainly, however he consider himself the only source of power, frustrated by the attempts of others to provide him guidance. Any efforts to stop him on his way to fixing Laius’ case he thinks about the desire to take his power far from him. Oedipus ends up being blind with paranoia, initially symbolically, and then he needs to blind himself, using his power versus himself.

Memory and the Past

Thinking about that we hear the story from the middle part of it, everything that Oedipus learns or tells about his childhood and young ages are either his memories or tales of the previous told by witnesses. In the more symbolic sense, the past can be so painful for today that it needs to be buried permanently. There are some things individuals would not be glad to know, the important things that might interrupt their lives.

The Fate made certain that the prophecy was fulfilled. However the Gods cursed the land of Oedipus to make him dig much deeper and deeper into his past and the past of his family. He does it even when it starts to harm and he recognizes that the reality will be extremely unsightly. However he needs to satisfy the past to conserve his kingdom, as he had to satisfy the past because of saving his family in his youth. Every intent, even the very best one, brings Oedipus to the past and to the pain of it.

Another thing that can be related with the past is a meta example. The story of Oedipus is the beginning of the story of his daughter, explained in another play by Sophocles. Understanding who her father is may in some way discuss her sexual love to her own sibling and her stubborn and devoted character.

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