Freud, Incest, Murder, and Oedipus the King

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Freud, Incest, Murder, and Oedipus Rex (the King)

A Freudian analysis of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex (the King) would show that Oedipus truly contained an incestuous nature. This was revealed not only by Oedipus' marriage to his own mother, by whom he had children, but also by his irrational preference for his daughters, Antigone and Ismene. While the attention he showered to his daughters was profound and sexually tinged, he dismissed his sons as creatures able to take care of themselves. Although he was unconsciously attracted to his daughters, he also feared that his daughters will become social outcasts and will be unable to marry.

When Freud in his Interpretation of Dreams made his now famous observations about Oedipus the King, he naturally focused on the main issue: that Oedipus killed his father and married his mother.(1) A further Freudian analysis of the play reveals another issue that came to dominate psychoanalysis: the preference of Oedipus for his daughters. Oedipus's preference for Antigone and Ismene appears only at the very end of the play, but it completes the picture of incest and murder in the family.

Although mentioned at intervals in the play, the children of Oedipus do not appear until the last few pages. After he discovers his real parents and blinds himself, Oedipus turns his attention to his children, who are innocent victims of events beyond their control. But his reaction is incredibly biased in favor of the daughters:

Oedipus. Now, for my sons, Be not concerned for them: they can, being men, Fend for themselves, wherever they may be: But my unhappy daughters, my two girls, whose chairs were always set beside my own At table - they who shared in every dish T...

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.... D. F. Kitto (Oxford; Oxford UP, 1962) 95.

3 Sophocles, Three Tragedies, 96.

Works Consulted

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Ehrenberg, Victor. “Sophoclean Rulers: Oedipus.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex, edited by Michael J. O’Brien. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Fagles, Robert. "Introduction to Oedipus the King." In Sophocles' The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King,

Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. NY: Penguin, 1984. 131-53.

Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. NY:

Penguin, 1984. 157-25

Van Nortwick, Thomas. Oedipus: The Meaning of a Masculine Life. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
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