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Self-Inflicted Pain in Oedipus Rex Essay


It is said that self inflicted pain is the worst to have, for one must blame that pain only on himself.. In the Greek drama Oedipus Rex, Oedipus, the protagonist and tragic hero, is full of hubris, which is arrogance resulting from excessive pride. Many times throughout this story, the readers not only get to take a glimpse at Oedipus pride and hunger for power, but they get to watch as it becomes his downfall, as well.

Oedipus pride is revealed to us when, as king, he takes the responsibility to find the pollution that is putting the plague on Thebes. On Page 473, starting on line 154, we begin to see hubris is Oedipus attitude. OEDIPUS: I will bring this to light again. King Phoebus fittingly took this care about the deed, and you too fittingly. And justly you will see in me an ally, a champion of my country and the God. For when I drive pollution from the land I will not serve a distant friends advantage, but act in my own interest. Whoever he was that killed the king may readily wish to dispatch me with his murderous hand; so helping the dead king I help myself. On line 255, this continues: OEDIPUS: I forbid that man, whoever he be, my land, my land where I hold sovereignty and throne; and I forbid any to welcome him or cry him greeting or make him a sharer in sacrifice or offering to the Gods, or give him water for his hands to wash. I command all to drive him from their homes, since he is our pollution, as the oracle of Pythos God proclaimed him now to me.[266]Upon the murderer I invoke this curse-whether he is one man and all unknown, or one of many-may he wear out his life in misery to miserable doom! If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth I pray that I myself may feel my curse. After Creon expresses that the plague is on Thebes only because of the murderer of the previous king, King Laius, Oedipus is bound and determined to find out who is the cause of this disaster. Without knowing that he killed King Laius, his own father, he begins to speak of the horrible things that he wishes for the killer to be put through. He is being proud and showing his power by ordering punishments on the person who has cursed his land.

Another example of Oedipus pride coming out is seen when Tiresias the seer and he get involved in a heated argument. When Oedipus angers Tiresias, Tiresias reveals that Oedipus is the person who killed King Laius. Because this information is not what Oedipus wants to hear, Oedipus immediately backlashes with words of ignorance and hatred, calling Tiresias a false prophet, and proclaiming that Tiresias is blind physically, and internally, too, because Oedipus is innocent of this horrible crime that Tiresias has exposed him of. Remembering all of the threats that Oedipus made about the killer earlier, it is amusing to see that when his name is mentioned, his focus is on clearing his name, and not following through with the previously mentioned punishments. This argument can be found on page 481, starting on line 390 : TIRESIAS: [to Oedipus] you are the lands pollution. , OEDIPUS: How shamelessly you started up this taunt! How do you think you will escape? On Page 482, line 406 : OEDIPUS: Not twice you shall say calumnies like this and stay unpunished. TIRESIAS: Shall I say more to tempt your anger more? OEDIPUS: As much as you desire; it will be said in vain.

When the Herdsman comes with the Second Messenger and has news of Oedipus transition from families, the Herdsman quickly realizes that he should not share what he knows because this situation has grown and is now much bigger than it once was. With Oedipus in power, he uses torture mechanisms to make the Herdsman tell what he knows. (Page 511) After having his arms twisted, the Herdsman finally discloses Oedipus identity. Page 511, lines1262-1302 : OEDIPUS: You will [die] unless you tell me truly. HERDSMAN: And Ill die far worse if I should tell you. OEDIPUS: She [Jocasta] gave it to you? HERDSMAN: Yes she did, my lord. OEDIPUS: She was so hard-its mother? HERDSMAN: Aye, through fear of evil oracles. OEDIPUS: O, O, O, they will all come, all come out clearly! Light of the sun, let me look upon you no more after today! I who first saw the light bred of a match accursed, and accursed in my living with them I lived with, cursed in my killing. When Oedipus hears of this, he is deeply affected, because by discovering exactly who he is, the identity that he has had for all of his life no longer fits him. Not remembering that the Herdsman spoke out only because Oedipus forced him to, and against his will, Oedipus is now confused at who he is. Because of his pride and abundant power, Oedipus has once again hurt himself.

Though this story is not very realistic or easy to visualize, the lesson that is learned is one of importance. Sometimes, things are better left alone. Looking at almost every instance in this story, Oedipus pain is inflicted by himself. By forcing certain people to speak against their will, Oedipus is introduced to a truth that he is not familiar or pleased with. By quickly jumping to a foul temper, Oedipus angers another into exposing his past, which not even he was aware of. The fate, or coincidence-whichever one wishes to call it- throughout this drama is unbelievable. However, looking at the way things were uncovered, if Oedipus could have controlled his hunger for power or his arrogant personality, his fate may have been altered. Instead of biting his tongue and changing his fate, he lashed out words without thinking and sped it up. I do have pity for Oedipus, because he tried to run away from the oracle in the story whenever possible. He never intended on helping the gods trap himself, but his quick temper and haughtiness, if controlled, could have greatly helped him. He was full of pride and made his decisions quickly, and, in the end, that proved to be his greatest enemy.

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