Comparing the Oedipus of Sophocles and Senaca
The myth of Oedipus is one of a man brought down by forces aligning against him. Over the years, different playwrights have interpreted his character in various fashions. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Oedipus is a man who is blind to the path on which his questions take him and exemplifies the typical tyrannical leader in ancient times; in Senaca’s Oedipus, it is the fear of his questions that give Oedipus a greater depth of character, a depth he must overcome if he is to survive his ordeal.
Sophocles creates a character of extreme wrath and ferocity to deal with the source of the blight on the city. He curses out the killer of King Laius, the killer who has brought the blight.
"Upon the murderer I invoke this curse – whether he is one man and all unknown or one of many – may he wear out if life in misery and doom! If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth I pray that I myself feel my curse. On you I lay my charge to fulfill all of this for me, for the God, and for this land of our destroyed and blighted, by the God forsaken (Soph. O.T. 245-254)."
When it is suggested that Oedipus himself could be the source of the plague, his anger emerges in full force. "(Truth has strength,) but not for you (Teiresias); it has no strength for you because you are blind in mind and ears as well as in your eyes (Soph. O.T. 370-371)." The Oedipus of Senaca’s play is not nearly so rash. He seems to dread what will come from his exploration into the death of Laius, even though the condition of his city is just as terrible as that of Sophocles’. "I shudder, wondering which way fate will steer. My shaky mood could waver either way. When joys and griefs so close together lie, the mind is doubtful. How much should one see? How much is best to know? I’m dubious (Sen. Oed. 204-208)." This Oedipus even has thoughts that the plague might have something to do with him, that his rule might be the pollution that has descended upon the city (Sen. Oed. 40). It is this anxiety that Seneca wishes to bring out in his play, one of the emotions that are the downfall of man.