A Freudian Reading of Oedipus Rex and Antigone Essay

A Freudian Reading of Oedipus Rex and Antigone Essay

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A Freudian Reading of Oedipus Rex and Antigone

    In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud postulates that the chief source of conflict within the human psyche is between the id, ego, and superego. The id contains all of the primal urges of a person, such as rage, sex, or violence, and these drives are projected onto the ego, which is the source of rational thought. Hence, many of our conscious thoughts are affected by these urges. Since in a civilized society, many of these compulsions, such as the tendency towards violence and casual mating, are unacceptable, a mechanism is needed to keep these thoughts in check. The superego serves this function by restraining the ego, and it accomplishes this by reversing these primal drives back onto the ego itself.


Freud suggests that this causes unhappiness in humans, because these animalistic tendencies, since they are not causing destruction in the external world, now cause destruction to the human psyche. This leads to conflict within the self and unhappiness among humans. In extreme cases this leads to psychological diseases such as hysteria.


The two main urges in humans are those of Eros and Death, and these two forces oppose each other as a struggle "between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction". It is apparent very early on as shown in the famous Oedipal Complex developed by Freud, where the male infant focuses his Eros drive upon his mother, and his Death drive upon the father figure. This leads to the classic Oedipal triangle where the son kills his father and marries his mother, as it occurred originally in Sophocles' play Oedipus the King.


Here, Freud takes a distinctly modern view of an age-old problem of why humans are unh...

... middle of paper ...

...ace 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.


Sigmund Freud, "Oedipus Rex." The Interpretation of Dreams. Qtd. In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Thomas

Woodard (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 1966) 101-104.

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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