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Oedipus Rex By Sophocles Essay, Research Paper

In "Oedipus the King," Sophocles concocts one of the most famous and

intricate characters of Greek drama. A tragic hero, Oedipus’ desire for

self-discovery and understanding inevitably leads to his tragic downfall. In the

end, it can be seen that Oedipus’ tragic flaw is his own determination and

persistence. Oedipus is a leader. He thrives on power and thirsts for control.

It is interesting to note, however, that Oedipus does not abuse his power.

Rather, Oedipus strives to better Thebes at all costs…including the cost of

his own power. From the opening of the drama, Oedipus’ determination is quite

obvious. As king, he promises his subjects that he will rid Thebes of all

pestilence and famine. This promise is backed by Oedipus’ well-known victory

over the Sphinx, and his people believe instantly that their king will solve all

their troubles. The people of Thebes trust Oedipus because they recognize his

persistence. Aside from his outward determination, many other qualities can be

seen in Oedipus. One quality of particular interest is Oedipus’ morality and

fairness. When taking a broad view of the play’s actions, one can see that

Oedipus does all he can to achieve a fair state. He pursues the

"murderer" with full force in an honorable attempt to seek justice.

Oedipus’ morality becomes even more apparent towards the end of the play when he

decides to follow through with the punishment of the murderer, even though he

must leave his kingdom and his home. Oedipus, though an honorable character, is

guilty. His extraordinarily complex guilt can be seen on two levels: on the

level of the Gods, and on the level of the law. Oedipus has clearly broken laws

and taboos through his unwholesome behavior. More importantly, however, Oedipus

has offended the Gods. He has attempted to alter the most important and

immutable constant of Greek philosophy: fate. By avoiding fate early in life

through feeble means (leaving his parents), Oedipus angers the Gods, and

eventually pays for his wrongdoing through his own punishment. Though Oedipus is

guilty, his self-banishment relieves his guilt and redeems his character.

Throughout the drama, Oedipus relentlessly strives to discover two seemingly

polar entities: the murderer of Laius, and his own true identity. In the end of

his tragic downward spiral of truth, however, Oedipus discovers their equality.

Oedipus’ own seemingly beneficial characteristic of determination inevitably

causes his tragic fall from dignity and grace.

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