Oedipus the King: Unrealistic or Realistic Essay

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Oedipus Rex – Unrealistic or Realistic

Let’s explore the traces of realsim and its opposite in Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex.

The first obvious question is: How can this drama possibly be considered realistic since it relies so heavily on predetermination and fate in the life of the protagonist, Oedipus? As Jocasta recounts to Oedipus:

An oracle

Once came to Laius (I will not say

'Twas from the Delphic god himself, but from

His ministers) declaring he was doomed

To perish by the hand of his own son,

A child that should be born to him by me.

Charles Segal in Oedipus Tyrannus has a solid rebuttal to what appears predestination:

The issues of destiny,
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. . . He describes his position in . . . words which show that in his heart he wants full and absolute authority. . . . The suppliant people approach him almost as a god, and he is honored as a saviour. . . . Such honours, as every Greek knew, are dangerous, for they may lead to “hybris” (74-75).

Of course, Oedipus completely dominates the drama with his strong, well-rounded character and with his position in the spotlight during the duration of the play. Since he is a very realistic type, this is a vote in favor of realism. But what about the well-known fact of the presence of mythology in the dramas of the Attic tragedians? C. M. Bowra in “Sophocles’ Use of Mythology” states that Greek myths have a strong presence in Attic tragedy:

The three Attica tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, all used familiar myths for their tragedies, and nearly always drew on heroic stories. . . . Myth provided the framework for 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 humn interest, but they also exemplify some far-reaching problem, which is admirably presented in this individual shape (31-32).

How can the reader accept as realistic any literary work which relies so heavily on Greek

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