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Personal qualities that aid in the survival of oedipus

A harsh lesson in humility 21 July 2003 — 10: In the fifth century BC, the Athenian audience seated on the tiers of stone seats of the theatre of Dionysus would have been familiar with the myth on which Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex is based.

The conventions of the Greek theatre were not conducive to intricate character development. From the first line of the play, the audience's attention is on Oedipus. This does not contradict the earlier point about characterisation: As Aristotle's theory of tragedy requires, he falls from a state of happiness to one of misery.

Those personal qualities that have made him great contain the seeds of his downfall. Oedipus became king of Thebes because he was intelligent, daring, confident, rash and assertive. He is led, blind and homeless, from the stage at the end, because of these qualities. Advertisement In his first speeches, he appears kingly, speaking formally, remote from his people's suffering, condescendingly addressing them as "children".

He ignores the subtle warnings of the priest that he solved the riddle "with the help of God", and that he is not "the equal of gods, but the first of men", and describes himself as a "stranger", to what has happened. By depicting Oedipus's lack of real piety, his overstepping of every boundary dividing man's authority from divine power, Sophocles shows that it is necessary for Oedipus to see his identity as a man and to understand the sphere of influence of the gods.

The lip service he pays to the gods at the beginning is unconvincing, whereas his humble "No god will speak for me" at the close is born of recognition and revelation.

A harsh lesson in humility

Oedipus is more admirable, more human at the end. No longer standing on the palace steps, looking down at his people, he is on their level.

  1. Two sessions later, she reported a dream. As a result, for Angela, analysis tends to be less a process of discovery and more a soothing exercise, both about myself and about her.
  2. What I had done would, of course, matter less if I were looking at Angela only as the active agent within her dream - that is, if I assumed that she was making of me whatever she needed me to be in the moment. Responsible for everything, and proclaiming himself uniquely capable of bearing the suffering that his guilt demands, both Oedipus and Freud's dreamer who is, more often than not, Freud himself locate the problem in the core of the self.
  3. In the way he cast both his theory and his clinical method, Freud adopted and promoted the later, enlightenment view of gnothi seauton.
  4. The first word of the play is, remarkably, the same word that opened Oedipus Tyrannus. Freud's brilliant coup was to see that what story-tellers and myth-makers had always done for their societies could work, on a smaller scale, for individual sufferers.

However, he is isolated by their horror. His humility, his hesitant questions, his blindness which symbolises the ability to see, which he earlier lackedmark him as one of the people, and they avoid his questing hands.

This could be their fate. The first words of the Chorus, when Oedipus is "revealed" as the polluter, are telling: The myths and legends of a culture, though not literally true, help us to make sense of our universe, to explain our place in the world.

What is the human condition? What is the role of the gods? Through his interpretation of the Theban legend, Sophocles explores his world, arguing strongly that the universe has a pattern that man will disturb at his peril. The tight structure of the play and inexorable progress of its action reflect the playwright's insistence on the structure of the universe: Context is all important: Sophocles wrote the play at a time when the existence of the gods was being questioned and when scholars and philosophers were explaining their world and man's place in it, not through myths, but scientifically.

From the conviction that the gods controlled human existence, there was a movement to the suggestion that man was the centre of all things. Oedipus Rex demonstrates the extent to which this suggestion was anathema to Sophocles.

Through the comments and odes of the Chorus, through the tightly constructed plot in which dramatic irony functions at almost every point, through the development of the character of Oedipus, through the contrast between the characters of Oedipus and Creon, Sophocles builds his case for the power of the gods in human existence.

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  • I suspect that I also was thinking, although even less consciously, that she would have to tolerate a certain amount of passivity before she could find her own agency;
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That is not to say that he depicts mortal man as a mere puppet. Rather, he seems to argue that man must recognise himself and his place in his world, and that to impinge on the areas that are the gods' territory is to invite terrible punishment. Modern notions of justice can be offended by Oedipus's punishment, yet the play and, notably, the Chorus and the protagonist himself, accept it as the natural and inevitable result of his own actions.

Sophocles distinguishes between ignorance and innocence: He chooses, unknowingly, his own fate, laid out for him before his birth.

  • And, in one of the many ironies that give a chilling feel to the opening scene of the play, he makes clear that his own self-interest even more than the interest of the ordinary people is at stake;
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  • The attempts of Laius and Jocasta to evade the fate foretold for the child they were forbidden to conceive could be seen to arise from the best impulses in human nature, yet they are appallingly punished;
  • Clinical material Angela, a married woman approaching middle age who has lived a severely constricted, nearly agoraphobic life for many years, has recently developed an interest in contemporary art.

He is subject to his own curse made in his dangerous ignorance at the start of the play. The attempts of Laius and Jocasta to evade the fate foretold for the child they were forbidden to conceive could be seen to arise from the best impulses in human nature, yet they are appallingly punished. Rather than murder Oedipus, they spare the baby, as do the two shepherds on Mount Cithaeron.

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Similarly, Oedipus himself acts from the best intentions, with important exceptions when his temper, arrogance and recklessness overpower his judgement. He answered the riddle of the Sphinx with the word "man" and saved Thebes, yet 15 years later, Oedipus is shown still not to understand what it is to be a man. Camille Paglia writes that the Sphinx's riddle, "by which she defeats all men but Oedipus, is the ungraspable mystery of nature, which will defeat Oedipus anyway".

The language of the "other", the stranger, the outcast, traces the reversal of Oedipus's fortunes, as he who hunts and curses the polluter becomes the prey. The man who denied any connection to "that far-distant crime" finds himself inseparable from "all human filthiness".

The extended metaphor of sight and seeing pervades Oedipus Rex; the physically sighted man who is blind to his identity becomes the blinded man feeling his way from his city, in his darkness seeing the light of understanding.

Phoebus is the sun god, the Chorus sings a song of praise to Thebes, "City of Light". Less interesting than Oedipus, Creon the "moderate man" lives safely, refusing to "speak beyond my knowledge", lacking the fire and ambition that define Oedipus.

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  • There are many psychoanalytic terms that describe this change;
  • No wonder, then, that Spezzano concludes that interpretation is a potentially violent act p;
  • But it is a rather peculiar analysis for Freud to claim as a paradigm; at least at first, knowing himself didn't work out very well for Oedipus.

In comparison with his co-ruler, Creon is controlled and careful, always working within the parameters of his own knowledge. The pride and excess exemplified in the killing of Laius, in Oedipus's exchange with Teiresias, and in his claim that Thebes is "my city" are absent from Creon's character.

This is the man, says Sophocles, who in an often incomprehensible universe, has the best chance of survival. Yet it is Oedipus who excites "pity and terror" in the audience, for he exhibits our highest aspirations.

  1. Then you will understand why you were bound to fall ill; and perhaps, you will avoid falling ill in the future" 1917, p.
  2. This will further disenfranchise the other, something that has happened many times before. But, paradoxically, with that recognition comes a new sense of agency.
  3. The effect of the structure of the ego on psychoanalytic technique. What is the human condition?
  4. The basic structure, an abandoned child inadvertently kills his father and marries his mother, exists as a folktale in societies throughout the world; in the ancient Greek tradition, it has been rendered in both epic and tragic versions.
  5. And her hatred, she is sure, will drive me away. By depicting Oedipus's lack of real piety, his overstepping of every boundary dividing man's authority from divine power, Sophocles shows that it is necessary for Oedipus to see his identity as a man and to understand the sphere of influence of the gods.

It is he who looks into the abyss suggested by Jocasta's assertion that "many a man has dreamt" of sleeping with his mother; it is he who "walks in his own high-handed way"; it is he who finally sees that "greatly to live is greatly to suffer". A Literary Study, by H.