Oedipus Rex (Oedipus The King) is a series of plays by Sophocles that was written in 430 b.c (spark notes) and is known as the classical Greek play. It’s the story of Oedipus, who trying to flee from his fate or prophecy but ends up running right into it. The play starts off with Oedipus as the beloved king of Thebes who’s people are being overtaken by a plague.
As he is consulting the oracle at Delphi, he is told that the only way the plague will fade is if the murderer of King Laius, Queen Jocasta’s first husband is found and punished for their crime. Oedipus is now fixated on finding Laius’ killer. His fixation on finding the killer unravels Oedipus’s past and dismantles everything Oedipus thought he knew and believed in.
The truth is revealed that Oedipus unknowingly and by self-defense killed Laius who Oedipus thought was an old man when he first arrived at Thebes. It is also revealed that Oedipus is the son that Jocasta and Laius tried to get rid of in order to stop the prophecy that Oedipus will grow up to kill Laius.
Oedipus realizing that he completed the prophecy that he tried to evade and married and had kids with his mother and killed his father is now guilt-stricken and when he finds out that Jocasta hanged her herself, he takes a pin off of her body and blinds himself. He is then exiled from Thebes and is now a blind man who forever roams.
The play is fixated on a tragedy. Tragedy in plays focuses on a protagonist and their tragic flaw which brings their ultimate demise. Everybody has a flaw, most people can overcome theirs. But a tragic flaw is not something that can be overcome, instead, it ruins their life to no end. Oedipus is famous for his tragic flaw.
Oedipus’ tragic flaw is hubris also known as excessive pride. Even though pride can be a good thing, its the opposite for Oedipus. Hubris is the thing that gets Oedipus in trouble the most. “One thing that can make extreme pride even more of a problem is a hot temper”. (study.com). With Oedipus, the only thing other than his pride that hurts him is his temper.
Right at the beginning of the play and all throughout Oedipus has had a short temper. On his way to Thebes Oedipus runs into a old man and his guards on a narrow road, which means someone has to move out the way and neither are willing to, so after a commotion, Oedipus decides to beat the old man to death and then kill all the other guards. (study.com). His hot temper throughout the play combined with his hubris ends up being the very things that bring him down.
Though another critic claims that Oedipus’ brilliance and determination are what served him well. “Oedipus’ brilliance and determination serve him well in solving mysteries — like the riddle of the Sphinx — but lead ultimately to his tragic downfall.”
Though the source also states that even though his brilliance and determination served him well in the beginning, it quickly turned on him in the end. Oedipus and his determination are what also leads to his demise. His need to fulfill any task in front of his no matter the size or difficulty is a strength and can also become a weakness.
Though he is very determined he lacks judgment. His lack of judgment is shown when Creon hints that the should discuss the news from the oracle in private, Oedipus chooses otherwise and insists that it should be public for the whole city to know.
His determination makes him unreceptive to reason and advice. His determination is fueled by pride which leads to his restlessness in finding out who murdered Laius. Throughout the play, he makes decisions quickly and boldly and almost always wisely. “The same leadership skills that have brought him fame and success—decisive action, a desire to solve mysteries using his intellect—drive him to his own destruction.”
Oedipus’ sharp mind and quickness are what makes him a famous and successful leader. For example, when he is told a plague has stricken the city, he already had two plans in motion to deal with the crisis. Oedipus like the rest of us have many strengths and weaknesses that play a part in who we are.
Oedipus has a complex character and personality, he is also hard to understand at some points. He starts off at a high point as the beloved King of Thebes and ends the play as a exiled blind man. Oedipus doesn’t realize his mistakes until the very end when its too late to fix them. Oedipus’ mistakes were his lack of conviction, his inability to listen to reason and advice.
One of his biggest mistakes was his unrelenting determination to solve the murder of Laius. In the play, the citizens of Thebes depend on Oedipus for the wisdom that he displayed when he solved the riddle of the Sphinx. But there is irony in that because the audience is aware of Oedipus’ lack of knowledge. His lack of knowledge makes him seem prideful and egotistical.