Oedipus

The King Analysis

Sophocles "Oedipus the King" is a tragic play which discusses the tragic
discovery of Oedipus that he has killed his father and married his mother. The
story of Oedipus was well known to the athenian’s. Oedipus is the embodiement
of the perfect Athenian. He is self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed.

Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his tragic discovery.

Oedipus gained the rule of Thebes by answering the riddle of Sphinx. Sophocles
used the riddle of the sphinx as a metaphor for the 3 phases of Oedipus’ life
and to futher characterized him as a tragic man. The Sphinx posed the following
riddle to all who came to obtain the rule of thebes: "What is it that walks on

4 feet and 2 feet and 3 feet and has only one voice, when it walks on most feet
it is the weakest?" Oedipus correctly answered "Man" and became the king
of Thebes. This riddle is a metaphor for the life of Oedipus. As a child man
crawls on his hands and knees this is the four feet to which the Sphinx refers.

Also man is at his weakest as a small child. He depends solely on others for his
nourishment and well being. Oedipus was the child of Jocasta and King Laius who
was taken to the mountain by a shepard to be killed so the omen of the god
apollo that Laius’ son would kill him and lay with Jocasta would not come
true. Oedipus was the weakest of his life at this point. If it has not been for
the shepard spairing his life and giving him to Polybus to raise as his own

Oedipus would have died. Man walks on 2 feet when he has matured. This is a
metaphor for Oedipus when he reaches adulthood and leaves Corinth to escape the
oracle. Oedipus meets up with a band of travelers and in a rage kills them.

Inadvertently Oedipus has killed his own father. Oedipus then answers the riddle
of the sphinx and becomes king of Thebes. By becoming king of Thebes he marries

Jocasta the Queen of thebes and his own mother. Many years later after bearing
children with Jocasta a plague kills many of the inhabitants of Thebes. Oedipus
is told by the gods to find the killer of Laius. He is very dilligent in the
inquiriy and finally comes to the horrible truth that he himself is the
murderer. Jocasta kills herself at the horrible realization that she has layed
with her son and Oedipus puts out his eyes at finally seeing the truth. This
fulfills the final part of the Sphinx’s riddle for Oedipus will have to walk
with a cane for the rest of his life because of his blindness, this will give
him the 3 feet which man walks with at the end of his years. Oedipus used his
intellect and diligence to answer the riddle of the Sphinx. Many of the most
intelligent young men of thebes has been killed attempting to answer the riddle
but Oedipus proved his intelligence superior to theirs. Oedipus uses the same
intelligence and perseverence to find the killer of Laius. He does not give up
his search even when Jocasta warns him to stop and let the matter rest. He calls
the shepard and interrogates him till he discovers the horrifying truth that he
is the killer. Oedipus’ intelligence was ultimately his flaw. Also, if Oedipus
had not had been as coarageous he would have have never ventured to answer the
riddle of the Sphinx. Thus even though he had killed his father he would have
never become king of Thebes and laid with his mother. In addition, if Oedipus
had had the courage but not the intelligence the Spinx would have killed him for
answering the riddle incorrectly. Sophocles used this to characterized Oedipus
as a tragic man for he came about his tragic discovery not because of an evil
act or an evil trait but because of the person he was. Oedipus traits which gave
him riches and power ultimately led to his tragic ending. Also, the god apollo
did not predestine that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother by
the oracle, he only stated what he knew was inevitable because of who Oedipus
was. The sphinx’s riddle was used by Sophocles to characterize Oedipus as a
tragic man and as a parallel to his life. The riddle describes the 3 stages
which Oedipus went through in his life. Also in answering the riddle Oedipus
inevitable brought about his