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READ: Sophocles and Oedipus Rex

5 Dramatic Irony

There is a great deal of dramatic irony present in the play Oedipus the King.

For example:
1) Oedipus is the blindest when he calls Tiresias, the seer blind.
2) Oedipus is cursing himself when he thinks he is cursing the slayer of Laius.
3) Oedipus can answer the impossible Sphinx-riddle, but he has no answer to the riddle of his own existence.

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*Oedipus and the Sphinx*

4) Every attempt he makes to help his subjects of Thebes only serves to bring more harm to himself.
5) Every attempt he makes to avert danger, only serve to bring it nearer.

Many of you have of "The Oedipus Complex." This is a term coined by Sigmund Freud.
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Freud was a psychoanalyst who redefined sexual desire as the primary motivating force of human life. He stated that the "Oedipus Complex", was the instinct that male children have to love their mothers, and want to do away with their fathers. Many people disagree with Freud's theories, but do acknowledge that children during their developmental stages go through periods of "competition" with the same sex parent for the affection of the parent of the opposite sex.

It is ironic that Freud has termed this the "Oedipus Complex", because in the tale of Oedipus the King, he falls in love with his mother by accident. He does not set out to create this situation.

There are several Main Themes that we can identify in Oedipus the King.
1) Suffering brings about knowledge and awareness.
2) Man is individually and solely responsible for his own behavior.
3) To set human reason above strict obedience to the gods is an act of HUBRIS
4) Fate for man contains within it a complex set of ironies.
5) There are tragic and fateful consequences for men who display excessive HUBRIS, (pride) which will lead to retribution at the hands of the gods.

Sophocles, Oedipus the King, (429 B.C.).

Brockett, O.G. (1999) History of the Theatre, MA: Allyn & Bacon.