Freud and Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus

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Were we to temporarily embrace the theories of Freud in our analysis of Oedipus Tyrannus and subsequent plays, we would find ourselves with an incestuous protagonist, so mad in his quest to power that he seeks to kill his father and will stop at nothing to achieve this. It is where Freud misconstrues the very essence of the play that the audience is intended to find its meaning. Were Oedipus aware of his actions throughout the course of the story there would have been no story. Never once was he in the conscious pursuit of his father’s death or mother’s marriage bed, and upon hearing of his own actions falls into crippling despair. The difference between what Freud theorizes of the King and what it is believed Sophocles intended of him, is the simple possession of knowledge, and the repercussions, both good and bad, it carries.

Oedipus, in his great glory, infinite wisdom and kind, genteel treatment of his subjects goes his entire life without making a decision for himself. His very existence has been set up by the Gods, a plaything, an example. Even still, he spends his life searching for answers, leaving home and using his extensive intelligence to eventually save a kingdom, of which he has no inclination is his own, and become a king. What possesses this man to follow the path of knowledge as it leads him from commonplace royalty to ultimate greatness and then to the darkest despair? Under the umbrella of human weakness it’s actually two traits that compel Oedipus to so gallantly follow the pursuit of knowledge, the sin of ego and the humanism of fear.

While these two personality traits don’t necessarily go hand in hand there are multiple instances where ego steams from fear or fear from ego. Throughout the story they bec...

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...abs his own eyes out. The message is clear. He did not see what was in front of him the whole time, so desperate for the absolute knowledge, the knowledge of the Gods and greatness, that he had refused to recognize the evidence right before his own eyes. It is the knowledge that he does not deserve to know anymore that forces Oedipus to tear his eyes from his head. He had overstepped his boundaries and he was repaying the Gods. He was setting the example.

Oedipus is the ultimate anti-thesis of himself. He is brilliant and naïve, wanderer and King, blind and seer. But in the end, despite the flaws, despite the greatness, he is human. And the great Greek Gods wanted men to remember that, to stay in their place. The taste of glory, whether consciously or not, became too compelling for Oedipus. Human weakness, in his pursuit of the truth, proved to be his downfall.
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