An Analysis Of The Plot In Oedipus Rex, A Play By Sophocles

This essay is intended to provide a detailed analysis of “Oedipus the Rex”. A plot for a play has a rising, falling, expositional, determinant, and peak activity. The rising action follows the exposition to lead up to the play’s greatest part. The falling is the activity that follows the peak. It leads the audience to the final determination. The play’s issue or question is best understood at the determination. The story’s thought/hypothesis is clarified by the exposition. The climax is the next thing to come and it’s often regarded as the most important moment in the play/story. The play’s message about fate, free will and the future is shown in this paper. Tiresias explains that fate will bring what it wants to regardless of her ability to speak.

The play opens with Oedipus talking to Thebes’s general populace and a priest. The action takes place in Oedipus’ palace. The king has a great concern for the people of Thebes. Oedipus’ men are asking for help from Oedipus because the plague has killed everyone in his nation. Oedipus sends his brother-in-law, Prince Creon, to speak to the Oracle to Apollo to find out the cause. Oedipus’s caring makes him not want Thebes tormented.

The oracle Apollo tells Creon, the prince of Thebes that King Oedipus has predeceased King Laius. When a blinded prophet is brought to the king, the play’s activity begins to rise. Oedipus reveals to Tiresias that King Laius has died, but Tiresias refuses the truth out of fear it could bring even greater complications. Tiresias finally confesses to Oedipus the truth after an intense debate. Oedipus believes Creon intentionally set up this situation. He accuses Creon, who he feels is trying to gain control of the honorable position. Creon becomes upset by this claim and asks for evidence. But before Creon can act, Jocasta comes into the room and tries to mediate.

Oedipus has no idea about a prophetic prophecy made when Laius lived. Jocasta explains to Oedipus everything she knows about the Prophecy. She tells Laius a former prophet had predicted his death by Laius’s child. The prophecy continued to state that Laius’s child would marry Jocasta and they would have children together. Jocasta tells Oedipus about how King Laius and his servants were killed along with unknown men while on their way to the palace. When he hears this, Oedipus is reminded of a time when he met someone on the road, the man was threatening him and they killed him with their servants. One servant, however, managed to escape.

The only survivor who knew who killed King Laius was a sheepherder. While they are speaking, the Shepherd enters and tells Oedipus to kill the King. He tells the story of a child whose parents left him on the road because they were afraid that he would fulfill a prophecy made about them. Polybus, a Corinthian and Merope took him in and raised him up until he reached adulthood. The discovery of the truth leaves him feeling humiliated, even though King Laius took every precaution to keep the prophecy from coming true. This story shows that free will and fate cannot be escaped.

Jocasta claims that Oedipus told her at the height of the play that he thought he was not the son King Laius of Corinth but the son Polybus. The drunkard who informed him that he is not the son Polybus cut off this belief. Oedipus felt disgusted and sought out the priest Apollo to explain to him what the prophecy was and who Oedipus really was. On his way to Merope from Corinth, he met a man that offended him. He killed the man, his servants and only one shepherd remained. The shepherd went to testify about what had happened, King Laius’ death and who was responsible. Oedipus became the new King of Thebes following the incident.

This play is a great example of how determination and falling activity can be combined, especially at the end. When Jocasta, King Oedipus and the other characters learn that their prophecy has come true in them, both of them become frenzied and worried. Oedipus fled Corinth and Merope out of fear that he would kill Polybus, whom he mistakenly believed was his father. He was told that Polybus’ illness had caused his death. This prophecy seemed to him like it was coming from a novice prophet who did not know what she said. Oedipus finds himself confused. In his room he discovers that Jocasta killed herself. To save Thebes, he orders him to be exiled from the country until he is dead. Creon is instructed to care for the young girls. In conclusion, he requests that Creon accompany him through the dark doors to his death.

Aristotle says that Oedipus by Sophocles is the perfect tragedy. Aristotle has a variety of reasons for his opinion. Peripeteia is one of the reasons Aristotle’s position on this matter has changed. Aristotle, in his Poetics book, defines peripeteia as “a sudden change that causes the action to turn around and go the other way”. In Oedipus, Aristotle argues that the messenger in Oedipus Rx visits Oedipus and confirms that it is his mother who actually gave him biological birth. This temporary bliss is however shattered by the revelation that his mother, who is also his wife, is in fact his mother. Aristotle defines the second element as anagnorisis or “a shift from ignorance to knowing”. Oedipus’s wisdom is evident in Oedipus rex. He has a hard time learning about himself and his family. He is not able to maintain his pride because he goesuges out both his figurative and literal blindness.

Many plays and stories are based upon a basic plot diagram. In “Oedipus-rex”, there is an exposition that occurs when Oedipus, the king, begins treating the plague. Oedipus also waits for Creon as he returns with the good information about the reason behind the plague which is tormenting Thebes. Tiresias accuses Oedipus, king of Thebes, of killing his dad and cursing the nation. The play reaches the peak when Oedipus discovers that Laius was his father and Jocasta his mother. The culmination of the play is when Oedipus learns that his parents were Laius and Jocasta and that it was his father who he killed.


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    David Wong is a 29-year-old educator and blogger who focuses on helping students learn in creative and interesting ways. He has a background in teaching and has been blogging since 2006. David's work has been featured on a variety of websites, including Lifehack, Dumb Little Man, and The Huffington Post.