“Oedipus the King” Play by Sophocles

In the tragedy, Oedipus the King, the writer Sophocles poses one of the most important issues of his time — the will of the gods and the free will of humans. The mythology served as the basis for ancient poetry, especially for tragedy written by Sophocles. The writer used the myth of the unfortunate King Oedipus in the plot of his drama to show the clash of the will of gods and humans. This tragedy shows the strength of the characters and their desire to direct life following their own free will. This paper will analyze the characters of Oedipus and Jocasta and the relations between them to uncover their personalities and values.

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Oedipus is the protagonist of the tragedy, who is depicted as a man with a steadfast and robust personality. He also possesses a system of deeply rooted values and beliefs that make him an honest and dedicated person. Oedipus is the son of Theban king Lai and his wife Jocasta, one of the most tragic heroes of Greek myths and dramas. This character owes his fame primarily to Sophocles, who, using ancient Theban traditions, created the image of Oedipus with unsurpassed mastery, thanks to which this hero remains one of the greatest figures of Greek and world dramaturgy today. Oedipus reminds readers of the eternal inconstancy of human happiness and provides evidence of the inevitability of fate that inspires horror. Once, when Oedipus was already a young adult, some foolish resident of Corinth called him a foundling. Although his adoptive parents reassured their son in every way and did not reveal him the secret of his birth, Oedipus decided to go to Delphi and ask the Apollo oracle about his origin. The oracle, instead of answering, gave Oedipus the prophecy that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Not daring to return to Corinth, which he considered his homeland, Oedipus set off to seek happiness in a foreign land.

Jocasta is the wife of Theban king Lai and his successor Oedipus.

She is depicted as a confident and arrogant woman who dedicates her life to serve her husband. Jocasta and Lai had no children for a long time. One day her husband turned to the oracle and found out that the child born to Jocasta would kill him. He did not say anything to his wife but began to avoid her. After the prescribed period, Jocasta gave birth to a son, Oedipus. Lai decided to get rid of the baby, but the boy survived. Many years later, Oedipus met with Lai and, not knowing who was in front of him, killed his father. After the death of Lai and the liberation by Oedipus of Thebes from the demon-strangler Sphinx, Jocasta became the wife of her son, unrecognized by her. The relations between Jocasta and Oedipus were filled with love and mutual support, even though they had different values and beliefs.

Thus, the prophecy given to Oedipus at Delphi was fulfilled, although neither he nor Jocasta suspected that they were relatives and for about twenty years had a happy marriage, during which four children were born. Only after a long period, when Thebes was struck by pestilence and the Delphic oracle demanded the expulsion of the unsaid killer Lai from Thebes, Oedipus was able to establish, in the process of clarifying the circumstances of the long-standing crime, whose son he killed, and with whom he was married. Thus, the main hero cried: “Yes, I am wroth, and will not stint my words, but speak my whole mind” (345-346). Jocasta at first tries her best to calm her husband, offended by the inconceivable accusation of the prophet Tiresias. However, after hearing the story of the Corinthian messenger and realizing that she married her child, she prays to her son Oedipus to stop the further investigation and then leaves for the palace, where she commits suicide with shame and sadness. Oedipus gouged out his eyes with a gold clasp removed from the dress of the hanging Jocasta and was eventually expelled from Thebes.

In the end, Oedipus cursed his children with a terrible oath, wishing them to kill each other. He said: “And on the murderer this curse I lay on him and all the partners in his guilt” (244-245). As soon as Oedipus uttered the words of the curse, there was a thunderclap. It was a sign of the supreme guardian of fate, Zeus Olympic, that Oedipus could descend into the kingdom of shadows. Oedipus said goodbye to his daughters and called to Theseus. He took an oath from the Athenian king to take care of Antigone and Ismen, and in return for this beneficence, he revealed to him the secret of the location of his grave, which would protect Athens more reliably than shields and city walls. He said: “Dark, dark! The horror of darkness, like a shroud, wraps me and bears me on through mist and cloud” (313-314). After that, Oedipus calmly said farewell to the world and quietly went to the dark kingdom of Hades, on the threshold of which the mortal’s life and his fate cease.

Overall, the relationships between Oedipus and Jocasta were based on support, understanding, and love until they found out that they were tightly connected with family ties. The fact that Jocasta was Oedipus’ mother worsened their relations and caused devastating quarrels in the family that later led to the death of the main character. Two heroes had different personalities and values, which contributed to the situation of their dispute and Jocasta’s death.

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Work Cited

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Trans. David Grene. OER Commons. Web.

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