The myth of Oedipus’s incest and parricide has been retold many different times. The basic story line has remained the same. Oedipus leaves Corinth to try to escape a fate of incest and parricide. After he leaving the city, he ends up saving Thebes from the Sphinx, becoming king of the city and in the process fulfilling the prophecy. The character of Oedipus changes in each play to help support a different meaning to the entire myth. Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine and Sophocles’s Oedipus the King are both centered on the myth, yet their themes are different. By changing Oedipus’s personality, motive, relationship with Jocasta, his mother and wife, and his character development Cocteau makes his theme the idea that the gods simply play with humans, instead of like Sophocles’s theme that man can not escape his own fate.
Sophocles depicts Oedipus as an intelligent though too proud man, however Cocteau depicts Oedipus as an egotistical and not too smart man. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus actually solves the riddle of the Sphinx and then became known for being clever. Teiresias, an old blind prophet, reminds him of this: "But it’s in riddle answering you are strongest." Soph. O.T. 440. Oedipus intelligence is also shown in his inquisitive nature. From the beginning Oedipus searches for the killer of Laius by asking many questions. This eventually leads to his downfall, though Jocasta tries to make him stop asking questions:
"I beg you—do not hunt this out—I beg you, if you have any care for your own life. What I am suffering is enough." (Soph. O.T. 1060-1063)
Cocteau’s Oedipus does not have to solve the riddle of the Sphinx because she gives him the answer a...
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Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
Cocteau, Jean. The Infernal Machine and other plays. (Bermel, Albert.). New York: New Directions. 1963.
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.
Jaeger, Werner. “Sophocles’ Mastery of Character Development.” In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.
Sophocles. (1991). Sophocles I: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone (Grene, David.). Chicago: University of Chicago.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Transl. by F. Storr. no pag. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/browse-mixednew?tag=public&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&part=0&id=SopOedi
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