Critical Analysis: King Oedipus Sample Essay

Critical Analysis: King Oedipus Sample Essay.

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Summary and Critical Analysis: King Oedipus

Part II of the play King Oedipus opens with Jocasta within King Oedipus’ household. As Jocasta makes a prayer for the betterment of his husband the King, the first messenger from Corinth enters the household looking for his majesty Oedipus as he bares news of double meaning for the King. Out of ignorance, the messenger does not know that Jocasta is the King’s wife and until the Chorus notifies him of whom he was addressing. Once they know each other, Jocasta insists to be told of the news that the messenger bares. No sooner had the messenger delivered the message that Polybus king of Isthmus was dead than Jocasta sends for his husband. The news brings more joy than sadness to Oedipus in that he finds out his father died of natural causes yet the Delphic oracle named Pythian hearth had once foretold of Oedipus being the one to take away his father’s (King Polybus) life. Even though Oedipus is relieved due to having not killed his father, he is afraid of going back to rule in his father’s kingdom as the oracle had foretold that he (Oedipus) would lay with his own mother.

However, the messenger reveals a major truth about Oedipus’ so called parents not being his real parents. Apparently, Oedipus was found as a child on the slopes of Cithaeron by a man the messenger called Laius’ man (the Herdsman in the play), instead of being murdered, the child was passed to the first messenger by Laius’ man who then handed him over to Polybus as a gift for his childlessness. The play now unfolds to be a series of unfolding truths as Oedipus summons Laius’ man so as to dig out the humbling, painful and fearful truth behind his (Oedipus) childhood and true parents. The truth only confirms that Oedipus was bred to misery and his own mother had given him up to be done away with as a new born.

Critically analyzing the summarized portion of the play, it is clear that the portion portrays a series of tragedies that occur within the play bringing out various major Aristotelian Concepts. Firstly, the concept of plot (Muthos) is well portrayed. There is the aspect of peripeteia where there exists a reversal of situations in that the ‘good’ news of Polybus’ death is wrapped up with the bad news that the evil oracles once foretold are still prone to ever happening. At the same time the aspect of anagnorisis is evident where Oedipus recognizes the truth pertaining his childhood and his parents. He thus gets to change from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge about where exactly he was born and how he got to be under the care of his thought of father- King Polybus.

Secondly, Aristotelian concept of Hubris is well illustrated in the case of Oedipus. Where he is seen to reach for the truth about his childhood out of pride and insolence. He does not listen to the warnings given by Jocasta or by the Herdsman. In fact, he threatens to twist the Herdsman’s hand or even kill him if he fails to tell him what he knows. Thirdly, there is the concept of Katharsis especially in the story of Oedipus’ childhood. Being accursed to the oracles fate, Oedipus’ life has been a life of eleos (pity) and the acts of digging into his past and staying away from his true home, Corinth, have all portrayed fear (phobos). Finally, there is the concept of irony within the play. Irony is first depicted when the news given about the death of King Polybus is received as news of comfort instead. The news is thus paradoxical in that it has double meaning. Irony is also portrayed where Oedipus is so sure that the oracles evils were false yet we see clearly that there is a lot of chances that they have not yet been forfeited and are to be fulfilled at some point.          

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