This essay will examine a feature of Sophocles’ tragedy which causes the reader to doubt the realism underlying the literary work. Specifically, the essay will consider the feasability of the belief at that time – that the Delphi oracle possessed credibility with the people.
At the outset of the drama the priest of Zeus and the crowd of citizens of Thebes are gathered before the royal palace of Thebes talking to King Oedipus about the plague which is ravaging the city. The king is sorely troubled and laments the sad situation. Then he says:
I have sent Menoeceus' son,
Creon, my consort's brother, to inquire
Of Pythian Phoebus at his Delphic shrine,
How I might save the State by act or word.
And now I reckon up the tale of days
Since he set forth, and marvel how he fares.
'Tis strange, this endless tarrying, passing strange.
But when he comes, then I were base indeed,
If I perform not all the god declares.
From this passage it would appear that the king has full faith in the awaited advice from the oracle at Delphi. Is this notion historicaly accurate? Did Sophocles’ contmeporaries actually put such trust in their pagan gods and goddesses? As Brian Wilkie and James Hurt state in “Sophocles”: “Humanity in his plays is an integral part of a world-order that can be only partially understood at best. The cosmic system includes, besides human beings and nature, those darkly inscrutable forces identified – inadequately – as the gods and fate” (718). When Creon returns, he gives his report publicly:
CREON Let me report then all the god declared.
King Phoebus bids us straitly extirpate
A fell pollution that ...
... middle of paper ...
...74). Cypselus consulted the oracle, and on the basis of its answer, set to work to make himself master of Corinth (376)which he ruled for many years.
Thus we have seen that Sophocles is not being imaginative when he bases the action of the tragedy Oedipus Rex upon the words of the oracle at Delphi. It is wholly consistent with historical data available from that time period of the fifth century BC.
Herodotus. The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt. England: Penguin Books, 1972.
“Sophocles” In Literature of the Western World, edited by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Transl. by F. Storr.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Oedipus Rex – Unrealistic or Realistic Let’s explore the traces of realsim and its opposite in Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex. The first obvious question is: How can this drama possibly be considered realistic since it relies so heavily on predetermination and fate in the life of the protagonist, Oedipus. As Jocasta recounts to Oedipus: An oracle Once came to Laius (I will not say 'Twas from the Delphic god himself, but from His ministers) declaring he was doomed To perish by the hand of his own son, A child that should be born to him by me.... [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
2005 words (5.7 pages)
- With every acclaim to success, there is a falling as intense as the ascent. Failure is the building block for success and without failure being the constant reminder that perfection is non-existent, great achievements could not be obtained. After an accomplishment, the world seems utopian, but not for everyone. Some feats end in the catastrophic demoralization of an individual. Aristotle believed the tragic hero to leave the mortal world in consternation after rising to a high societal stature, and using this as a basis, he developed the six characteristics of a tragic hero.... [tags: Tragedy, Tragic hero, Sophocles, Oedipus]
1346 words (3.8 pages)
- Faults Written in the Stars During the Ancient Grecian time periods, tragedy meant death because one defied against an outer prophecy. Modern day tragedy was simply realism, the unspoken way of life. In Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Ibsen's A Doll's House, the main characters - Nora and Oedipus, are both constructed to illustrate flaws in society and how naive people are. Ibsen and Sophocles both developed tragedy into a central idea that all people surreptitiously understand. Nora and Oedipus make incompetent decisions that assist in discovering their fundamental nature as tragic heroes and provoke sorrow and pity among the audience.... [tags: essays research papers]
664 words (1.9 pages)
- Sophocles’ Oedipus the King features a tragic storyline, conveyed through two of its main characters, Oedipus and Jocasta. Starting after their marriage, Sophocles begins writing of Oedipus’ journey to discover who murdered Laios, former king of Thebes. While ruthless in his attempt to discover the truth, Oedipus and Jocasta slowly panic upon discovering that the latter gave birth to current King Oedipus. Their misfortunate only worsens as they develop ways to cope, ultimately trying to forget and destroy their knowledge.... [tags: Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Jocasta]
706 words (2 pages)
- With the city stricken with a plague, a king will try to save it by finding the murder of the previous king. A truth will uncover the mystery behind the murder and reveal the current king’s past as false. This story is a simplified version of the play Oedipus the King and the play before sequel the play Antigone, both written by Sophocles. Both these stories have a theme that can relate to the both of them. The character Oedipus from Oedipus the King, Creon from Antigone, and the plot of Oedipus the King display the theme of sight vs.... [tags: Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Creon, Sophocles]
1280 words (3.7 pages)
- At the beginning of the play, Oedipus and the priest are having a conversation. Oedipus is the king of the land Thebes. In this conversation, the priest tells Oedipus that the people are dying due to a plague going around the town. The priest begs Oedipus to save all the people, so then Oedipus orders his brother-in-law, Creon to see how to stop the plague. Creon comes to the scene and tells Oedipus that he has to tell him important news. Creon asks Oedipus if he wants to tell him the news in front of all of the people.... [tags: Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Parent, Jocasta]
1850 words (5.3 pages)
- In the play Oedipus the King, the character that interested me the most is Oedipus. He was one of the main characters of the play Oedipus the King. I found him interested how when he found out the truth he punish himself instead of to keep hurting people. In the beginning of the play Oedipus was confident of what he was doing. He was the one that saved Thebes from being cursed by the Sphinx and he became the king right away for that reason. He would say his name as a healing charm. He was proud of being called Oedipus.... [tags: Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Creon, Jocasta]
1038 words (3 pages)
- Oedipus as Scapegoat in Oedipus the King The great psychologist-philosopher Carl Jung was briefly a student of Freud. Because Jung felt that Freud's approach to psychoanalysis was by far too narrow, he broke off from his teachings, and made significant contributions to mythological criticism. Jung's greatest contribution was his theory of archetypes. His proposal of archetypes argues that there is one original pattern or model of all things of the same type. According to Jung, beneath the personal unconscious is a collective unconscious that is in the psychic inheritance of all humans.... [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
1496 words (4.3 pages)
- Oedipus the King Oedipus the King is the perfect example of a tragedy. It contains a complete combination of all the features of a tragedy. Aristotle in his Poetics defines Oedipus as being 'a definite example of the form and purpose of tragedy'. In tragedies the Greeks dramatized climactic events in the lives of heroes, and Oedipus' story is no exception. By using many different literary devices it brings moral dilemmas of action and motive to the public stage. The action is set out over the timeframe of one day, which will according to the prophet Tiresias will bring Oedipus' 'birth' and 'destruction'.... [tags: Classics Oedipus King Essays]
1174 words (3.4 pages)
- Oedipus the King The uniqueness of the story of Oedipus the King lies in the fact that it is not told, but uncovered. Intertwined within are the workings of fate, which ultimately propel the uncovering of the story (Driver 247). The past is relied upon to solve the mystery of the present; however, it is learned by all that actions taken in the past will not change the fate of the future. The gods of Sophocles are the forces which operate within the cosmos, thus giving its consistency and order.... [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
394 words (1.1 pages)