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:
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.
Charles Segal in Oedipus Tyrannus has a solid rebuttal to what appears predestination:
The issues of destiny, predetermination, and foreknowledge are raised as problems, not as dogma. How much control do we have over the shape of our lives? How much of what happens to us is due to heredity, to accidents, to sheer luck. . . . These are the questions that the play raises, and it raises them as questions. It shows us men and women who are both powerful and helpless, often at the same moment. Oedipus embodies the human condition. . . . (75-76).
If this critic is correct that Oedipus embodies the human condition as it really is, then he is totally representative of reality, and not unrealistic as it might appear on first reading. Victor Ehrenberg in “Sophoclean Rulers: Oedipus” analyzes the protagonist of the tragedy and finds a balanced, realistic type who possesses the qualities of a king, including the human, realistic desire for more:
Oedipus is a ‘good king,’ a father of his people, an honest and great ruler, while at the same time an outstanding intellect. . . . He even shares the thro...
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...Sophoclean Rulers: Oedipus.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex, edited by Michael J. O’Brien. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Herodotus. The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt. England: Penguin Books, 1972.
Segal, Charles. Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
“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.
Bowra, C. M. “Sophocles’ Use of Mythology.” In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.
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