Oedipus Rex Analysis Essay
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The chorus play an important role throughout the play, they not only set up various scenes, but they represent the collective moods and feelings that are supposed to be felt at the time. When the chorus mourns, the audience mourn. They are also the voice of reason, clarity and sense, attributes to which we cannot associate with Oedipus. And so they play a vital role, connecting his actions back to the play. A way to describe the chorus, would be that theyre the collective conscious of the people of Thebes, but they also act as guardians. For although they are seen appealing to Oedipus to help them, they in turn have to help the king, they represent the faith that the city has in him.
The chorus appears mainly in sections of the play in which mood is ambiguous, their comments add to the continuity of speech. This gives us insight into the episodic structure of the play. For we can see that some paragraphs like the accusation of Teiresias and Creon are bound by the soothing comments of the chorus. This structure is evident in that it has separate events separated by the mediation of the chorus. This is essential as it allows us to view the way the mystery unfolds unto Oedipus, thus adding to the dramatic effect.
When the play opens, the city of Thebes is wasting away under a plague that has destroyed their fields and left their women barren. Oedipus, the king of Thebes, has sent his brother-in-law, Creon, to ask the house of Apollo to ask the oracle how to put an end to the plague. Creon returns, bringing good news. Hearing this, Oedipus swears he will find the murderer and expel them from the land. Oedipus asks the people of Thebes if any of them have any knowledge concerning the kings death. The Chorus proposes that Oedipus confer with Teiresias, a blind prophet. Oedipus informs them that he has already sent for Teiresias.
This opening passage, like much of the play, is about the feeling of strength, ego and power, as well as the notion of control. King Oedipus is steadfast in the immediate search for a resolution, as well as revenge for the murder of King Laius some years ago. He plays the role of the dedicated official, unwavering in his concern for the kingdom and its people. From this we can derive information, which would suggest that Oedipus means well for his kingdom, and that he is an honourable and sensible man who knows when to confer with wiser sources, i.e. the prophet.
When Teiresias arrives, he seems hesitant in answering Oedipuss questions, cautioning him against the knowledge he possesses. Oedipus threatens him with death, and begrudgingly Teiresias tells him that Oedipus himself is the killer, and that his marriage is a sinful union. Oedipus takes this as an affront to his person, and jumps to the conclusion that Creon paid Teiresias to say these things. He mocks Teiresias, telling him that he is no prophet; a prophet should have been able to answer the Sphinxs riddle, but Oedipus himself was the only one who could.
This attack on the moral character of another when confronted is immature, but this adds to Oedipus character, it shows his unwillingness to either admit or consider outcomes that he finds offensive, as well as his over defensiveness. By accusing not only his friend but also the well-thought-of prophet, we can ascertain that he is quick to pass blame, this is because through these statements Oedipus feels he has lost a great deal of control over his life. His mind rejects the idea and thus disrespects what the prophet has to say, but is compelled to hear the rest of the story.
Teiresias counters that although he has no sight, Oedipus is the one who is blind to the truth. He asks him whose son he is and reminds him of the curse on his parents heads. He tells him that he will leave Thebes in shame. Furious, Oedipus dismisses him, and Teiresias goes, repeating, as he does, that Laiuss killer is right here before him
a man who is his fathers killer and his mothers husband, a man who came seeing but will leave in blindness.
This statement is important because it highlights the irony of Oedipus story. A man, who believes himself to be in total control and on the edge of supreme knowledge, doesnt know the one thing that defines him. And yet he seeks it so eagerly so to reveal the problems that elude him, even though they will lead to his downfall. With each step he takes towards the truth he buries himself deeper into the mystery while at the same time burying himself into a metaphorical grave.
Creon enters and questions the people around him if it is true that Oedipus had slanderously accused him. The Chorus tries to act as mediator, but Oedipus emerges and charges Creon with treason. Creon argues for his innocence but Oedipus refuses to listen. This highlights Oedipus obstinate behaviour, he refuses to contemplate fallibility, as he assumes his own absolute knowledge, and that he knows that Creon is wrong even without evidence.
They continue to fight until Jocasta emerges. They explain the nature of their argument to Jocasta, who begs Oedipus to believe Creon. The Chorus also begs Oedipus to be flexible, and Oedipus reluctantly concedes and allows Creon to continue. Jocasta asks Oedipus why he is so upset and he explains to her what Teiresias prophesied. Jocasta consoles him by telling him that there is no truth in soothsaying, and she has proof. She tells that an oracle told Laius that his own son would kill him, so as a preventative he and Jocasta gave their infant son to a shepherd, to leave out on a hillside to die with its feet manacled to the rock. She persists that Laius was killed by robbers, and not by his own son, which is proof that the oracles prophecy was untrue. This reminded Oedipus of an event from his past, when he killed a stranger at a place