Hubris In Oedipus At Colonus
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Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
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Sophocles also wrote other plays focused on Thebes, most notably the Epigoni , of which only fragments have survived. As Sophocles ' Oedipus Rex begins, the people of Thebes are begging the king for help, begging him to discover the cause of the plague. Oedipus stands before them and swears to find the root of their suffering and to end it. Just then, Creon returns to Thebes from a visit to the oracle. Apollo has made it known that Thebes is harbouring a terrible abomination and that the plague will only be lifted when the true murderer of old King Laius is discovered and punished for his crime.
Oedipus swears to do this, not realizing that he is himself the culprit. The stark truth emerges slowly over the course of the play, as Oedipus clashes with the blind seer Tiresias , who senses the truth. Oedipus remains in strict denial, though, becoming convinced that Tiresias is somehow plotting with Creon to usurp the throne. Realization begins to slowly dawn in Scene II of the play when Jocasta mentions out of hand that Laius was slain at a place where three roads meet. This stirs something in Oedipus's memory and he suddenly remembers the men that he fought and killed one day long ago at a place where three roads met. He realizes, horrified, that he might be the man he's seeking.
One household servant survived the attack and now lives out his old age in a frontier district of Thebes. Oedipus sends immediately for the man to either confirm or deny his guilt. At the very worst, though, he expects to find himself to be the unsuspecting murderer of a man unknown to him. The truth has not yet been made clear. The moment of epiphany comes late in the play. At the beginning of Scene III, Oedipus is still waiting for the servant to be brought into the city, when a messenger arrives from Corinth to declare that King Polybus of Corinth is dead.
Oedipus, when he hears this news, feels much relieved, because he believed that Polybus was the father whom the oracle had destined him to murder, and he momentarily believes himself to have escaped fate. He tells this all to the present company, including the messenger, but the messenger knows that it is not true. He is the man who found Oedipus as a baby in the pass of Cithaeron and gave him to King Polybus to raise. He reveals, furthermore that the servant who is being brought to the city as they speak is the very same man who took Oedipus up into the mountains as a baby. Jocasta realizes now all that has happened. She begs Oedipus not to pursue the matter further. He refuses, and she withdraws into the palace as the servant is arriving. The old man arrives, and it is clear at once that he knows everything.
At the behest of Oedipus, he tells it all. Overwhelmed with the knowledge of all his crimes, Oedipus rushes into the palace where he finds his mother-wife, dead by her own hand. Ripping a brooch from her dress, Oedipus blinds himself with it. Bleeding from the eyes, he begs his uncle and brother-in-law Creon, who has just arrived on the scene, to exile him forever from Thebes. Creon agrees to this request. Oedipus begs to hold his two daughters Antigone and Ismene with his hands one more time to have their eyes fill of tears and Creon out of pity sends the girls in to see Oedipus one more time.
He finally finds refuge at the holy wilderness right outside Athens, where it is said that Theseus took care of Oedipus and his daughter, Antigone. Creon eventually catches up to Oedipus. He asks Oedipus to come back from Colonus to bless his son, Eteocles. Angry that his son did not love him enough to take care of him, he curses both Eteocles and his brother, condemning them both to kill each other in battle. Oedipus dies a peaceful death; his grave is said to be sacred to the gods. In Sophocles' Antigone , when Oedipus stepped down as king of Thebes, he gave the kingdom to his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices , both of whom agreed to alternate the throne every year. However, they showed no concern for their father, who cursed them for their negligence.
After the first year, Eteocles refused to step down and Polynices attacked Thebes with his supporters as portrayed in the Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus and the Phoenician Women by Euripides. The two brothers killed each other in battle. King Creon , who ascended to the throne of Thebes, decreed that Polynices was not to be buried. Antigone , Polynices' sister, defied the order, but was caught. Creon decreed that she was to be put into a stone box in the ground, this in spite of her betrothal to his son Haemon. Antigone's sister, Ismene , then declared she had aided Antigone and wanted the same fate, but Creon eventually declined executing her. The gods, through the blind prophet Tiresias , expressed their disapproval of Creon's decision, which convinced him to rescind his order, and he went to bury Polynices himself.
However, Antigone had already hanged herself in her tomb, rather than suffering the slow death of being buried alive. When Creon's wife, Eurydice , was informed of the death of Haemon, she too took her own life. In the beginning of Euripides ' Phoenissae , Jocasta recalls the story of Oedipus. Generally, the play weaves together the plots of the Seven Against Thebes and Antigone. The play differs from the other tales in two major respects. First, it describes in detail why Laius and Oedipus had a feud: Laius ordered Oedipus out of the road so his chariot could pass, but proud Oedipus refused to move. In Chrysippus , Euripides develops backstory on the curse: Laius' sin was to have kidnapped Chrysippus, Pelops ' son, in order to violate him, and this caused the gods' revenge on all his family.
Laius was the tutor of Chrysippus, and raping his student was a severe violation of his position as both guest and tutor in the house of the royal family hosting him at the time. Extant vases show a fury hovering over the lecherous Laius as he abducts the rape victim. Euripides wrote also an Oedipus , of which only a few fragments survive. At some point in the action of the play, a character engaged in a lengthy and detailed description of the Sphinx and her riddle — preserved in five fragments from Oxyrhynchus , P. The most striking lines, however, state that in this play Oedipus was blinded by Laius' attendants, and that this happened before his identity as Laius' son had been discovered, therefore marking important differences with the Sophoclean treatment of the myth, which is now regarded as the 'standard' version.
Some echoes of the Euripidean Oedipus have been traced also in a scene of Seneca's Oedipus see below , in which Oedipus himself describes to Jocasta his adventure with the Sphinx. At least three other 5th-century BC authors who were younger than Sophocles wrote plays about Oedipus. These include Achaeus of Eretria , Nichomachus and the elder Xenocles. The Bibliotheca , a Roman-era mythological handbook, includes a riddle for the Sphinx, borrowing the poetry of Hesiod :. What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? Due to the popularity of Sophocles's Antigone c. Oedipus was a figure who was also used in the Latin literature of ancient Rome.
Julius Caesar wrote a play on Oedipus, but it has not survived into modern times. He makes no mention of Oedipus's troubled experiences with his father and mother. Seneca the Younger wrote his own play on the story of Oedipus in the first century AD. It differs in significant ways from the work of Sophocles. Some scholars have argued that Seneca's play on the myth was intended to be recited at private gatherings and not actually performed. It has however been successfully staged since the Renaissance. It was adapted by John Dryden in his very successful heroic drama Oedipus , licensed in The Oedipus was also the first play written by Voltaire. In , Immanuel Velikovsky — published a book called Oedipus and Akhnaton which made a comparison between the stories of the legendary Greek figure, Oedipus, and the historic Egyptian King of Thebes, Akhnaton.
The book is presented as a thesis that combines with Velikovsky's series Ages in Chaos , concluding through his revision of Egyptian history that the Greeks who wrote the tragedy of Oedipus may have penned it in likeness of the life and story of Akhnaton, because in the revision Akhnaton would have lived much closer to the time when the legend first surfaced in Greece, providing a historical basis for the story.
Each of the major characters in the Greek story are identified with the people involved in Akhnaton's family and court, and some interesting parallels are drawn. In , U. Sigmund Freud used the name "the Oedipus complex " to explain the origin of certain neuroses in childhood. It is defined as a male child's unconscious desire for the exclusive love of his mother. This desire includes jealousy towards the father and the unconscious wish for that parent's death, as well as the unconscious desire for sexual intercourse with the mother. Oedipus himself, as portrayed in the myth, did not suffer from this neurosis — at least, not towards Jocasta, whom he only met as an adult if anything, such feelings would have been directed at Merope — but there is no hint of that.
Freud reasoned that the ancient Greek audience, which heard the story told or saw the plays based on it, did know that Oedipus was actually killing his father and marrying his mother; the story being continually told and played therefore reflected a preoccupation with the theme. The term oedipism is used in medicine for serious self-inflicted eye injury , an extremely rare form of severe self-harm. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Mythical Greek king of Thebes. For other uses, see Oedipus disambiguation. Main article: Oedipus complex. See also: Electra complex.
See also: Jocasta complex. Ancient Greece portal Myths portal. Grene, David and Lattimore, Richard, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago, London, W. Heinemann; New York,Macmillan, often reprinted — the Loeb, however, prints Sophocles in chronological order. Retrieved 9 July Jouan — H. Van Looy, "Euripide. In Goldhill, S. Sophocles and the Greek Tragic Tradition.
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