Mythology in Oedipus Rex Essay examples

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Mythology in Oedipus Rex

In “The Oedipus Legend” Bernard M. W. Knox talks of the advantages accruing to Sophocles as a user of myths in his dramas:

The myths he used gave to his plays, without any effort on his part, some of those larger dimensions of authority which the modern dramatist must create out of nothing if his play is to be more than a passing entertainment. The myths had the authority of history, for myth is in one of its aspects the only history of an age that kept no records. . . . the myths served as typical patterns of the conduct of man and the manifestation of the gods (85).

This essay seeks to explore the life of the flawed mythological person, Oedipus, as protagonist of
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The epic was most probably put into writing early in the seventh century before the present era. . . . “And I saw the mother of Oedipodes, fair Epicste, who wrought a monstrous deed in ignorance of mind in that she wedded her own son, and he, when he had slain his own father, wedded her, and straightway the gods made these things known among men. . . .She made fast a noose on high from a lofty beam, overpowered by her sorrow.” (Bowra 33).

From this we can deduce that the myth used by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex had to be older than the seventh century BC because Homer employed it at that time. C. M. Bowra in “Sophocles’ Use of Mythology” gives the rationale behind the Attic dramatists’ preference for myths in their plays:

Myth provided the framework of drama, which illustrated in a highly concrete and cogent way some important crisis or problem, and that is why Greek tragedy can be called symbolical. The old stories are indeed told again for their own sake, and there is no lack of dramatic tension and human interest, but they also exemplify some far-reaching problem, which is admirably presented in this individual shape(31).

The Homeric myth provides the story of the fall of a man from prosperity to adversity. Sophocles takes the myth and dramatizes it in such a way that every word and action makes an impact on the
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