Oedipus Tyrannos In English, The Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 2 Subject: Literature Type: Essay Paper: #53936726 Related Topics: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus The King, English Literature, English
Excerpt from Essay :

Thus, Oedipus' reference to his cursed birth at what is very nearly the end of the play refers back to the very opening lines of the Argument by repeating the image of the prophesied birth, but this time the characters are seeing that image with the same clarity as the audience.

The cursed nature of Oedipus' marriage is highlighted by Jocasta's death, because after learning the truth about her and Oedipus' relationship, she goes "straight to her marriage-bed" and hangs herself there after lamenting "o'er the marriage-bed / Where, fate-abhorred, a double brood she bare" (Sophocles 103). The repeated references to the marriage-bed included in the account of Jocasta's death fits within the plays larger focus on the conflation of familial roles, because the bed itself marks a physical location of this conflation; this bed is likely where Oedipus was conceived in the first place, and it marks the spot where that ill-fated conception reaches it dramatic conclusion, with Jocasta killing herself and Oedipus blinding himself with her clothes pins, "on him, on her, a mingling doom" (Sophocles 105).

The last line of Oedipus' exclamation upon finding out the truth of his parentage, "and cursed in blood-shedding I stand revealed," refers once again to his particular relationship with his father and his dual role as tyrannos and rex, because any of the blood shed in (or before) the play is a direct result of his role as Laius' son. He stands revealed as both tyrannos and rex, and this revelation is too much for him to bear,...


Following his blinding, Oedipus is final able to understand the literal and metaphorical violence he has been destined to commit against both his father and mother, respectively, noting that "to both alike / Deeds I have wrought that not the strangling cord / Rightly could recompense" (Sophocles 111). The combination of roles which occurs in the play is ultimately unsustainable, and thus death circles around Oedipus, because he represents the center holding these disparate roles together. This actually helps to explain why Oedipus does not die, like Laius and Jocasta, but rather is blinded and exiled; put simply, he cannot die, because by inhabiting all of these various roles, he is transformed into an almost amorphous character protected from those things which might affect any one person but which cannot affect him because he does not fit into any definable category. Thus, when he states that "this my curse / is destined for no other man than me," he is implying that though cursed, through the habitation of these myriad roles, son and husband, tyrannos and rex, he has become something unique, paradoxically more than any single role but somehow less than a genuine human (Sophocles 113).

Examining the relationship between the Greek and Latin titles of Sophocles' Oedipus the King allows one to appreciate the subtle irony of title as well as the way in which this irony serves to highlight a central theme of the play, the destructive conflation of roles in the form of Oedipus, and the conflation he forces upon his father and mother via his sheer existence. Oedipus is both tyrannos and rex as a result of his birthright fated to end in a violent ascent to the throne, and this dual role leads him to adopt another, that of both son and husband. Oedipus' tendency towards the conflation of roles ultimately leads to the death of both Laius and Jocasta, but it also serves to transform Oedipus into something entirely new by the end of the play, so while he escapes death, his curse is seemingly to continue his existence, but now revealed for the shifting, amorphous creature that he truly is, living a reality so disconcerting and undefinable that he actually finds it easier to stab out his own eyes than continue on seeing the world, and himself.

Works Cited

Davis, Robert, and J.M. Walton. "Found in Translation: Greek Drama in English."…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Davis, Robert, and J.M. Walton. "Found in Translation: Greek Drama in English." Theatre

Survey 49.2 (2008): 299-301.

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. London: MacMillan & Company, 1885.

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