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The Themes in Oedipus Rex Essays

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The Themes in Oedipus Rex    

 
   Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex, contains one main theme, which this essay will consider. The theme is the general doctrine or belief implicit in the drama, which the author seeks to make persuasive to the reader (Abrams 170).

 

In “Sophocles’ Moral Themes” Robert D. Murray Jr. cites a critic who is strictly moralist in the interpretation of the theme of Oedipus Rex:

 

Let C. M. Bowra speak for the moralists:

 

The central idea of a Sophoclean tragedy is that through suffering a man learns to be modest before the gods. . . . When [the characters] are finally forced to see the truth, we know that the gods have prevailed and that men must accept their own insignificance.

 

In short, for Bowra, the essence of each play of Sophocles is a message urging humility and piety (45).

 

Van Nortwick, seemingly in support of Bowra, describes Oedipus’ tragic flaw as something equivalent to the lack of modesty before the gods which Bowra refers to:

 

As ruler, he is a father to Thebes and its citizens, and like a father he will take care of his “children.” We see already the supreme self-confidence and ease of command in Oedipus, who can address not only other people’s children as his own, but also be a father to men older than he is. But beyond even this there is, in the sretched posture of the citizens, the hint of prostration before a deity. We are “clinging to your altars,” says the priest. . . . That he also exudes a godlike mastery in the eyes of his subjects only strengthens the heroic portrait. . . .(21-22).

 

The “godlike mastery” to which Van Nortwick refers is the same mastery which Creon in his final lines designates as the cause of the...


... middle of paper ...


...of Oedipus Rex, edited by Michael J. O’Brien. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

 

Jevons, Frank B.  “In Sophoclean Tragedy, Humans Create Their Own Fate.” In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.

 

Murray, Robert D. Jr. “Sophocles’ Moral Themes.” In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.

 

“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. no pag.

http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/browse-mixed new?tag=public&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&part=0&id=SopOedi

 

Van Nortwick, Thomas.  Oedipus: The Meaning of a Masculine Life. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

 


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