Oedipus Rex and Burial at Essay

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It is this lead character's outrage that drives the plot, rather than any journey of self-discovery or some fateful intervention. This is seen when Antigone declares her defiance of the king: "I will bury him myself. / and if death comes, so be it. / There'll be glory in it. / ... The gods will be proud of me." Rather than placing the importance of the gods first, Antigone views her own actions as of primary importance.

There is also a heavy element of introspection in both plays; it is Oedipus' attempt to discover the past of his kingdom that reveals his own personal past, and it is this self-discovery that leads to the tragedy of the play. Oedipus himself reveals the personal nature of this tragedy when he says "nor needs to tell / How your whole state is sick, for howsoe'er / Ye sicken, sicker is this heart of mine." His personal focus comes as a result of external events, which contrasts to Antigone's perceived control of external realities in Burial at Thebes, but it reveals a similar consideration of the outcome of the plot. Antigone is equally introspective in Burial at Thebes, and equally wary as to the outcome of her actions. But instead of seeing her past actions and the ways in which they might have defied fate and the gods, Antigone sees her future actions and her own independence as the main ways by which she might affect her future. Oedipus Rex is a play about how it is impossible to escape one's past, while Burial at Thebes illustrates the similar but different truth that it is impossible not to carve one's own path into the future.

Heaney does call this interpretation somewhat into question by some of his words towards the end of the play: "You, love, here and now / in this tormented house / Are letting madness loose." There is still an element of external blame and helplessness, but in Burial at Thebes it is not attributed to the gods or fate as in Oedipus Rex, but instead is an outgrowth of love, which is one of the most powerful human motivators. Even in this instance, then, Antigone's self-perceived agency in Burial at Thebes is much greater than Oedipus' in Oedipus Rex.

This illustrates the main difference both between the two plays and between the two historical periods that produced them. Individualism and self-determination are much more important to the of people today than they were to the Ancient Greeks. The lesson of Oedipus Rex could be seen as a warning not to defy the gods or your fate, whereas the much more modern message of Burial at Thebes seems to be that individual action is the only thing that can change a hopeless situation. Both plays demand that attention be paid to human actions, but the perspectives are very different -- the ancient play requires humans to respect the gods, but the…

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