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Oedipus the King by Sophocles Literature Analysis Essay

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Updated: Apr 21st, 2020

Oedipus is swift and confident throughout the play. He cross-examines Creon, asks for Tiresias, makes threats about sending Creon and Tiresias to exile, asks to see the servant who ran off from the assault on Laius, and finally requests to be banished. He is always in motion, apparently chasing his fate although it goes out of his control. Despite the fact that his fate was doomed from the beginning when his mother abandoned him, his aggressiveness lands him in great trouble. It leads him to his tragic end.

Oedipus is not morally at fault. In fact, he attempts to find out who killed Polybus, as he sees it as injustice. The closer he gets to the truth, the bitter the reality of his dreadful fate unveils. The junction where Laius was murdered is the same spot where Oedipus had killed somebody on the same day.

A prophecy was also given to him stating how he would do unspeakable things, “You are fated to be a couple with your mother, you will bring a breed of children into light no man can bear to see-you will kill your father, the one who you will life!” (Sylvan, William and William 1321).

Oedipus is not morally at fault because he flees from Corinth as he does not want the prophecy to be fulfilled. In other words, he cannot bear the thought of killing his own father, or marrying his mother. It is therefore very difficult to say that Oedipus was at fault or that he was foolish because he appears to have no alternative, but to fulfill the prophecy.

His judgment is not flawed because all he wanted was justice. It was a harsh judgment though. He did not know that his judgment will be his downfall. His mother pleads with him to leave the matter of Laius’ death and focus on the future but he insists on finding out who killed Laius.

He asks people of Thebes to give him any valuable information regarding the death of the king. He promises them that the murderer will be killed or sent to exile not knowing that he was judging himself, and proclaiming to his own damage: “Now my curse on the murderer.

Whoever he is, a lone man unknown in his crime or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step-I curse myself as well…if by any chance He proves to be an intimate of our house, Here at my heart, with my full knowledge, May the curse I just called down on him strike me!” (1307).

Oedipus is not at fault. He does not willingly kill his father or marry his own mother. He persistently searches for the truth in the attempt of altering his fate. This is the mistake he made as this search made his life full of agony. This search also exposed those he loved to astonishing fates. Oedipus lived his life with no hope for the future. He had no joy. After finding out about all his unfortunate fate, there was nothing more but to await his death.

The results of the sorrowful events that took place in the life of Oedipus caused him a lot of pain, hatred, and regret. These events are too overwhelming for the queen that she commits suicide in the end. Oedipus cannot take the sorrow any more on seeing his mother and wife dying; he blinds himself by stubbing his eyes with some pins that he pulled from his mother’s clothes.

This made him unable to see his children. His weakness contributed to his exile. He is weak to the extent that instead of trying to solve his problems and living with them, he opts to destroy his life and those of his daughters as they cannot get married. This is where his weakness is traced.

When Oedipus was born, his mother decided on his fatal destiny. At this point, it can be seen that his life was taken out of his control right after he was born. He is not lucky as his mother gives him out to an empire nearby, where he is raised as one of their own.

As he grew up, a prophesy was given that he would murder his own father and sleep with his mother, and give birth to children that would not be pleasing to look at “Revealed at last, brother and father both to the children he embraces, to his mother son and husband both- he sowed the loins his father sowed, he spilled his father’s blood “(1313).

On fear of this prophesies coming to pass, he runs to Corinth. He became king in Thebes inheriting the previous king’s wife. Together they had children. Not knowing he had killed his father, Laius, and married his wife being his mother. He had cursed himself when he asserted that he would seek revenge for Laius’s murderer. He went on further to promise to sacrifice his own future if Laius’ murderer was a member of Thebes’ empire.

It is evident in the play that man has no power over his fate. Oedipus tries to run away from his fate, but it still gets hold of him. Oedipus’ flaw cannot be clearly pointed out. The play simply implies that tragedies and errors can befall anybody, and that man has no power before the gods.

Laius tries all he can to prevent the prophecy he was told; that he would be killed by his son. When his wife Jocasta bore him a son, Laius and his wife gave him up to a servant and told the servant to take the child to Mt. Cithaeron, and leave him to die. However, the servant did not obey the instructions and instead, gave the child to a shepherd from Corinth, who took the child to his king and queen.

He grew up in Corinth, and later killed his father, ignorant that he had killed his own flesh and blood. Either way, Apollo’s oracle came to pass despite the attempts of Laius and his wife to kill their son so as to break the fate that had been predicted by the oracle.

It is clear that the events that resulted in misfortune in the lives of Jocasta, Oedipus, and Laius are as a result of the supernatural oracle, which is the work of the gods. This oracle had predicted these events in advance, and they were aware of it.

They tried to prevent these misfortunes from taking place by taking different measures, but the events turned out as they had been predicted. They all have not done anything to deserve the fate they had. In this play, it appears, therefore, that the gods want to make a point using Oedipus. The play proves that the gods have the right over the fate of ma


Sylvan, Barnet, William Burto and William Cain. An Introduction to Literature. London: Longman Publishing, 2010. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Oedipus the King by Sophocles Literature Analysis'. 21 April.

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