Horror and Self-punishment in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

850 WordsJul 15, 20184 Pages
Horror and Self-punishment in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex An ancient plate portraying Oedipus listening to the riddle of the Sphinx. Oedipus Rex is a play whose qualities of inscrutability and of pervasive irony quickly come to complicate any critical discussion. It is a play of transformations in which things change before our eyes as we watch; where meanings and implications seem to be half-glimpsed beneath the surface of the text only to vanish as we try to take them in; and where ironical resemblance and reflections abound to confuse our response. The play encourages us to make connections and to draw out implications that in the end we are forced to reassess, to question and perhaps abandon. The play's meaning through two…show more content…
Oedipus: When he who plots against me in the dark Comes swiftly on, I must be swift in turn. If I stay quiet, his ends will have been gained, And mine all missed. Creon: What is it that you want? To expel me from the country? Oedipus: Not at all. Your death I purpose, not your banishment. Creon: Not without shewing, first, what a thing is jealousy! Oedipus: You talk like one who will not yield, nor heed. Creon: Because I see you mean injuriously. Oedipus: Not to myself! Creon: No more you ought to me! Oedipus: You are a traitor! Creon: What if you are no Judge? Oedipus: I must be ruler. Creon: Not if you rule badly. The concentration of attention at this point in the play on the state of Oedipus' mind is striking and unusual in Greek tragedy. The moment of discovery, which meant so much to Aristotle, is the moment of supreme emotional shock and apparent revelation; but the revelation is at most a partial apprehension of the truth. The chorus recoil from Oedipus' discovery in an instant reassessment of the whole meaning of human life, of human achievement and human existence. They burst out with a cry that reduces the whole sum of human life to nothing, and human achievement to a mocking, momentary apparition, a firework, an arrow that climbs and falls away and means

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