Skip to main content

Sophocles Oedipus the King tragedy,Summary, Themes, Quotes, Analysis,Oedipus Rex,Oedipus tragedy of blood

  • Author:
  • Updated date:
Oedipus and the Sphinx

Oedipus and the Sphinx

Analysis of "Oedipus the King" as a Tragedy - Oedipus the King tragedy of blood or not?

Oedipus the King themes: Tragedy is one of the most prevalent and most applauded forms of drama. The Greek play "Oedipus the King" by Sophocles is an excellent manifestation of the literary device, tragedy. Oedipus, the principal character in the play unknowingly kills his father and marries his widowed mother while he was on an attempt to explore his identity. Oedipus is a tragedy of blood. Sophacles’ Oedipus the King is a perfect example of classical Greek tragedy. The philosopher Aristotle, in his book The Poetics, explained the criteria for a work to be a tragedy. According to him, for a play to be a tragedy it should awaken emotions like wonder, awe, fear, or pity in the minds of the audience. Apart from this, for a tragedy the plot must be complex and a major character should experience a great fall from prosperity (and fame) to misfortune because of a particular mistake he commits. Classical tragedy also includes the depiction of a reversal of a situation, an unexpected turning. It can be human suffering or self recognition of the principal character. The three unities, an unexpected turn in the end, a complex plot and noble characters are some of the characteristics of a tragedy that are found in “Oedipus the King."

Oedipus the King summary -what are the characteristics of classical greek tragedy in king oedipus

Oedipus Rex – the Greek tragedy with all the characteristics of a tragedy: Oedipus Rex, no doubt, is a classic example of Greek tragedy. The play is deemed as a tragedy as it perfectly meets all the five criteria of a good tragedy; a tragic hero who is of noble birth, a tragic fault, a big fall from grace, a point of remorse or regret, and finally a catharsis. Oedipus Rex of "Oedipus the King" is the perfect sum all these criteria. His life was exactly that of a tragic hero. The tragic life of the hero made the novel a tragic novel. His nobility is the first feature that characterizes Oedipus as a tragic hero. He was of noble blood being born as a noble. He was destined to be a king in his very birth and could not escape from being a king. Even though he was attempted to be killed, destiny did not allow it and made him to be raised up by a king and queen of a different land. Nobility that fits a real hero is thus inherent in the blood of Oedipus Rex. He is a proven hero who heroically frees Thebes from the Sphinx. His heroic efforts made him to be declared as the hero who is still the favorite play character of all generations.

Oedipus the King Quotes-Tragedy quotes in Oedipus the king

Hamartia is the tragic flaw of Oedipus the king even though it did not lead to his death. He was filled with pride and temper which turned out to be his biggest mistake. We find the blind temper of Oedipus as he kills Laios and the other travelers with him. We find him saying that “Swinging my club with this right hand I knocked him out of his car, and he rolled on the ground. I killed him I killed them all” (Sophocles 765-72). Even though Oedipus did not know that the old man in the chariot was the Laius, king of Thebes (who was actually his father), he did a big mistake killing the old man mercilessly. The fury of Oedipus is also evident in his words to Teiresias who reveals his fate and reply the questions posed on Thebes. Pride and arrogance made him shout “Damnation Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight!” (Sophocles) The anger of Oedipus made him commit the tragic mistake of killing his very father Lauis, and marry his mother Jocasta. We find Oedipus and others discovering this mistake that was performed long back.

Oedipus the King analysis-Oedipus tragedy of blood or not explanation

Oedipus Rex’s big fall from grace strengthened the cause of the drama as a great tragedy. This fall from grace happens as Oedipus, Jocasta and all others realize that Oedipus had killed none but his father and took his mother as his wife. This tragic moment of realization that makes everybody astonish is at the end of the play. Audience’s label the drama "Oedipus the King" as a tragic drama in this very point of realization. The moment of regret in the drama arrives at the end of the story as one of the servants who was with Laius the king during his death come and reveals his experience to Oedipus. He had accompanied Laius on that final journey and had survived the attack. He revealed the truth that Laius was killed by a single man and not a gang of robbers. He pointed out Oedipus as the murderer of Laius. This news made Oedipus shattered to pieces and Jocasta hang herself. Oedipus stabs off his eyes with the pins from his dress and punished himself.

Oedipus the King themes (Catharsis and other themes)

The next feature of the drama, Catharsis or the emotional cleansing of the audience is found along with the same time of remorse. The audience develops pity for unfortunate Oedipus who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. Jocasta too was guiltless in the eyes of the audience as she was just an innocent bystander in the whole show. The people of the land also gather sympathy of the audience as they were suffering because of the terrible curse happened because of the terrible act. Catharsis is perfectly accomplished at the end of the play that makes it a tragedy.

Oedipus by Sophocles – A drama with a complex plot

The play "Oedipus the King" includes a complex plot. There also happens an abrupt reversal of the topic with respect to the principal character Oedipus. We find him telling “Ah God! It was true! All the prophecies! -Now, O Light, may I look on you for the last time! I, Oedipus, Oedipus damned in his birth, in his marriage damned, Damned in the blood he shed with his own hand! (Sophocles).” He utters this once he understands that the prophecies told to him (at the Oracle) came true. The prophesies about him reached its fulfillment. Oedipus had to encounter that unexpected turn. This alone is sufficient to prove that the play turned out to be a tragedy.

Oedipus the King play – a perfect tragedy - theme of tragedy of blood in Oedipus the King

Sophocles’ "Oedipus the King" is a thus a perfect tragedy that meets all the criteria for a tragedy. "Oedipus the King" otherwise also is a tragedy as it ends in a sorrowful event. Even a layman with the least knowledge of literary devices of a drama would recognize "Oedipus the King" as a tragedy. A drama that ends with the death of a principal character and with the shame, misery and self-exile of another major character is what else other than a tragedy? No listing of criteria is required to brand "Oedipus the King" as a tragedy. Moreover it is not just the tragic incident of the play that makes it a tragedy, but the way in which the plot is developed. In the play "Oedipus the King" the story line proceeds as if the audience is ‘unpeeling an onion’. The culmination to the surprising climax also made "Oedipus the King" one of the best tragedy of all times.


tesh on October 26, 2015:

Scroll to Continue

he is actually a great tragedy writer and like his play.its very educative indeed

kair on December 24, 2013:

This is a very interesting tragedy story and stard to end

kanwal on February 20, 2013:

this tragedy is one of the masterpiece of Sophocles.Oedipus was a true tragic hero.

pareshay Haider on February 18, 2013:

its marvelous and heart touching tragedy Sophocles is undoubtedly a great tragic writer not only of his age but also among modern writers ,he is rightly succeeded to to create the feelings of pity and fear its really excellent

Haya kham on February 18, 2013:

its excellent tragedy of ever i read

dhannyya (author) on June 10, 2012:

thank you zabina khalid.frm murree for the comment

zabina khalid.frm murree on June 10, 2012:

sophocles was a man of beautifully he wrote in a really grand style.hero is a tragic hero,nd at the it makes audience weep.people feel sympathy 4 jocasta nd oedipus.

Related Articles