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Check Out Our Oedipus the King Essay

"Sophocles (495 BC-405 BC) was a famous and successful Athenian writer of tragedies in his own lifetime. Of his 120 plays, only 7 have survived. Oedipus the King, also called Oedipus Tyrannos or Oedipus Rex, written around 420 BC, has long been regarded not only as his finest play but also as the purest and most powerful expression of Greek tragic drama." (Johnston).

As a matter of fact, there are many instances of conflict and contradiction in line with the Aristotelian concept of split between plot and character. Oedipus's past deeds, his murder of his own sired father, Laius, as ordained by the gods, and predicted by the Oracle, happens some fifteen years ago, but this culpability comes to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Ironically enough, , even though the plot carried the incident of the son killing his own father, Oedipus was not aware of the fact that the man he murdered was his father. However, when the question of tracking down the king Gaius's killers arose, he says that he would speak as one who is a stranger to the story (of his father's murder) and a stranger to the crime.  "And he will turn out to be the brother of the children in his house-their father, too, both at once, and the husband and the son of the very woman who gave birth to them." (Johnston).

Literal and metaphorical allegories to vision are viewed throughout Oedipus the King. Clear vision serves as a symbol for insight and knowledge, but the clear-eyed Oedipus is blind to the truth about his origins and unintentional crimes. The prophet Tiresias, on the other hand, although literally blind, sees the truth and relays what is revealed to him. Only after Oedipus has physically blinded himself does he gain a restricted prophetic ability, as seen in Oedipus at Colonus. It is purposely paradoxical that the "seer" can "see" better than Oedipus, despite being blind. In one line Tiresias says: "So I say this to you, since you have chosen to insult my blindness- you have your eyesight, and you do not see how miserable you are, or where you live, or who it is who shares your household." (Johnston).

Sophocles has relied heavily on Oedipus's ignorance about his own complicity in his father's murder for the progression of the plot and development and enfolding of the character of the protagonist, Oedipus. Although the king had knowledge about the death of the former king (his father Laius), he had no clue as to whom Oedipus had actually killed at the cross roads. Although he had a slight inkling from the hints dropped by Creon and the old prophet, Teiresias, he could not even imagine in his wildest dreams, that the alleged highwayman he had fought over and killed was his own father. In the end, when this truth and realisation dawned upon him, it completely destroyed him, physically and mentally. He repents the sins committed by him and taking his children (borne of his mother) in his arms he sobs to them,"Your father killed his father, and then ploughed his mother's womb-where he himself was born-conceiving you where he, too, was conceived." (Johnston).

The aspect of Oedipus's guilt feelings over his past actions is quite evident throughout the play. In the initial stages he was traumatized as to who his father's murderers were (being told that it was a group and not a single person). Later when the truth dawned on him, he is contrite and guilt ridden, not because he has now discovered the murderer, but considering the dilemma of what punishment he needs to give himself to atone for his patricidal  sins and for begetting children from his mother, now his wife, all of which was, of course, unintended and unknown by all. Perhaps this was the curse of the gods, or the wrathful revenge of the Sphinx, whose invulnerable riddle he had solved. The character and progression of the plot reveals the yawning chasm between the known and the unknown in the life of the King. Although he is aware of the truth, he is not informative about the truth behind his father's death.

Finally, it could be said that blindness is one of the main themes in 'Oedipus, the King.' Not just physical blindness but intellectual loss of sight as well. This loss of vision is an effective contrasting method for Oedipus at different points in the play. Although Oedipus wishes to know the truth about the past of this kingdom, he is does not realise it till the very end, and by this time, it is really very late for any kind of amend or atonement.

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