Essay about Morality in Oedipus Tyrannus

Essay about Morality in Oedipus Tyrannus

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In both modern times and the time of the ancient Greeks Sophocles’ play Oedipus Tyrannus is seen as the quintessential model of Greek Tragedy. The literature masterfully incorporates intricate questions of morality and “perhaps no classical Greek play has stimulated as much critical discussion” (Harris and Platzner, Classical Mythology: Images and Insights, p.648). One of the dominant arguments the tragedy generates is whether Oedipus is responsible for the abhorrent crimes of patricide and incest. The answer to which is yes. To be human is to have choice and evidence throughout the play illustrates how Oedipus’s reckless decisions lead to violations against his parents. As a result of Oedipus’s choices concerning his interactions with the oracle at Delphi, his shameful attack of a man on the road to Thebes, and most importantly his allowance of stubborn pride and blindness to overshadow the truth, he is alone accountable for his crimes.

Oedipus’s response to the oracle’s prophecy thrusts him on to the tumultuous course of brutally murdering his father and sharing his mother’s bed. As a youth, Oedipus travels to Apollo’s oracle at Delphi hoping to gain insight into his own identity. This act of seeking out answers is completely Oedipus’s choice. It is not a chance governed by fate and his decision is the foundation for the gripping tragedy that will consume him (Harris and Platzner, Classical Mythology: Images and Insights, p.649). The news the oracle delivers to Oedipus is catastrophic. He is told that he will “wed [his] mother” and “kill the father who begot [him]” (Oedipus Tyrannus, p.755&757). The blunt deliverance of this prophecy shatters Oedipus and he chooses to believe the oracle without doubt. Oedipus is incapable ...


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...erously trying to steal his throne. With thoughtless rage Oedipus screams, “Do you own a face so bold that you can come before my house when you are clearly the murderer of this man and manifestly pirate of my throne?” (Oedipus Tyrannus, 507-510). Oedipus is “ego driven”(Harris and Platzner, Classical Mythology: Images and Insights, p.653) and in a frenzied attempt to defend himself he foolishly concludes that Creon must be after his prestigious title. He immediately and unfairly labels Creon as a grasping murderer. His lack of wisdom and understanding causes him to act irrationally and prevents him from discovering the truth. The evidence in support of Oedipus’s blinding pride and the fact that he chooses to be ignorant to the truth rather than see reality is abundant. His choice to blame others for his wrongs and his arrogance make him responsible for his crimes.

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