Oedipus Rex By Sophocles
In “Oedipus the King,” Sophocles concocts one of the most famous and
intricate characters of Greek drama. A tragic hero, Oedipus’ desire for
self-discovery and understanding inevitably leads to his tragic downfall. In the
end, it can be seen that Oedipus’ tragic flaw is his own determination and
persistence. Oedipus is a leader. He thrives on power and thirsts for control.
It is interesting to note, however, that Oedipus does not abuse his power.
Rather, Oedipus strives to better Thebes at all costs…including the cost of
his own power. From the opening of the drama, Oedipus’ determination is quite
obvious. As king, he promises his subjects that he will rid Thebes of all
pestilence and famine. This promise is backed by Oedipus’ well-known victory
over the Sphinx, and his people believe instantly that their king will solve all
their troubles. The people of Thebes trust Oedipus because they recognize his
persistence. Aside from his outward determination, many other qualities can be
seen in Oedipus. One quality of particular interest is Oedipus’ morality and
fairness. When taking a broad view of the play’s actions, one can see that
Oedipus does all he can to achieve a fair state. He pursues the
“murderer” with full force in an honorable attempt to seek justice.
Oedipus’ morality becomes even more apparent towards the end of the play when he
decides to follow through with the punishment of the murderer, even though he
must leave his kingdom and his home. Oedipus, though an honorable character, is
guilty. His extraordinarily complex guilt can be seen on two levels: on the
level of the Gods, and on the level of the law. Oedipus has clearly broken laws
and taboos through his unwholesome behavior. More importantly, however, Oedipus
has offended the Gods. He has attempted to alter the most important and
immutable constant of Greek philosophy: fate. By avoiding fate early in life
through feeble means (leaving his parents), Oedipus angers the Gods, and
eventually pays for his wrongdoing through his own punishment. Though Oedipus is
guilty, his self-banishment relieves his guilt and redeems his character.
Throughout the drama, Oedipus relentlessly strives to discover two seemingly
polar entities: the murderer of Laius, and his own true identity. In the end of
his tragic downward spiral of truth, however, Oedipus discovers their equality.
Oedipus’ own seemingly beneficial characteristic of determination inevitably
causes his tragic fall from dignity and grace.