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Oedipus Rex: Short Character analysis

A short character analysis of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex

Oedipus- His Character

Aristotle says in his poetics that Sophocles drew men ?as they ought to be?. But Oedipus, with heinous acts as he did, is this what he meant by what a man ought to be? Of course not, this isn?t the way Aristotle meant us to interpret the statement in this way, and this will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

In the opening scene, Sophocles presents Oedipus as a wise and benevolent ruler. The following lines by the priest: ?It was you, we remember, as a newcomer to Cadmus? ancient town, that broke our bondage to the vile Enchantress.? Lines 35-6, ?But as we truly believe, with the help of the gods, you gave us back our life.? Lines 37-8 ?Your diligence saved us once? Line 42 Phrases such as this prove Oedipus was a good king of Thebes.

The priest even calls Oedipus ?greatest of men? which is later repeated by the chorus at the end. Oedipus is not only a good king, he knows he is and this is apparent in the way he talks about himself: ?I Oedipus whose name is known afar? Lines 6-7

Oedipus had two disagreements in the play, first with Tieresias and then with Creon. Though he over-reacted by suspecting Creon, one cannot blmae him for getting mad at Tieresias? supposed slander. On the other hand , according to the dialogue, Oedipus was so preocupied by his own theories that he was obivious to any other point of view, includind the truth. This can be refered to as Oedipus? ignorance, as aforesaid, but it is better to refer it to a flaw in his character.

Possibly one of the most famous scenes in the play, though not shown, is Oedipus; self-blinding scene. Directly after hearing the whole truth, he runs out in anguish and carves out his eyes. The reason why Oedipus does this can be found in his character.

He says himself when the chorus questions him on his deed:

How could I meet my father beyong the grave with seeing eyes? Or my unhappy mother, against whom I have commited such heinous sin as no mere death could pay for? Could I still love to look at my children, begotten as they were begotten? Could I want my eyes to see that pretty sight? To see the towers of Thebes, her holy images, which I her noblest most unhappy son have forbidden myself to see, having commanded all men to cast away the offence, the unclean, whom all the gods have declared accursed, the son of Laius, and having proven myself that branded man, could I want the sight to face the people?s stare? No!

(Lines 1072-85)

Thus Oedipus? self-blinding act was an easy way out, though he admits death would be easier. Though he does say ?such heinous sin as no mere death could pay for?

Here?s another point of view: ?Oedipus is much of a model upon us of a way to live. Though he did commit crimes that were considered then, and even now, acts of murder and immorality, they were without any knowledge of doing at the time. Furthermore, when he did find out the truth, he did not play sly and try to hide or colour it. He faced it head-on with subsequent noble, though rather drastic, actions? This statement by James Arder is very true to the character of Oedipus. Thoug his deeds were bad, in fact very bad, he faced them noblely and fully. As king, he could have easily ?silenced? both the shepherd and the Corinthian, made an excuse for Jocasta?s death, apologised to Tieresias and Creon, and kept on ruling. Most people today, if they were found in a similar situiation to Oedipus would do just that.

However, the best defination of Oedipus? character come from himself: ?I her noblest, most unhappy son? Line 1379

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