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While literature has become a major source of entertainment in different societies throughout the world, its growth has been one of the most respected with those featuring holding their names high. By growth here I mean the capability of writers to confidently use the elements of drama in educating as they make their readers enjoy the plays. Among the writers who have put this into consideration is Sophocles in his drama “Oedipus”. This work will critically analyze characters and motifs as some of the many elements of drama used in this play.
“Oedipus” is a drama centered at the life of Oedipus, the main protagonist, who is cast out of his motherland, Thebes, to live in a foreign land and later come back to rule the same land. After his birth, a prophecy is made that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother. To avoid the reality, his father, Laius the king, and mother, Jocasta, decide to kill him and give him to their shepherd to accomplish their dream. On his sympathy, the shepherd hands him to another shepherd from the Corinth kingdom who then hands him to the royal family and he is brought up like a prince. Unknown to him that he does not belong to this family, he learns that he will kill his father and marry his mother at a function and decides to flee so as to avoid this incident. In the wilderness, he meets men on a crossroad who harass his and in self-defense; he kills all except for one. Among the men killed is his biological father, Laius (Euripides, Sophocles and National Theatre 81). He goes to Thebes, answers a riddle by Sphinx and finally he is made the king (76). He inherits the queen but does not know that she is his biological mother. When eventually the truth is revealed, the queen hangs herself and Oedipus blindens himself and asks to be sent away from Thebes. After several years of wondering, Oedipus finally lands on a holy ground in Athens where disappears in the ground.
As earlier mentioned, one of the elements that will be discussed is characters and their personality. Oedipus has been made success by its characters and the roles they have played. Characters include Oedipus- the main character, Jocasta- Oedipus mother and wife, Ismene and Antigone- their daughters, Creon- brother-in-law, Polynices- Oedipus son, Tiresias, Haemon- son of Creon, Theseus- ruler of Athens and finally, the chorus. The major characters are however, Oedipus, Creon and the chorus (Sophocles).
In this drama, Oedipus has been featured as a man of quick actions, intelligent and confident. Oedipus is very quick to act, something that makes him an outstanding king. For instance, when the city is in danger and people come to him to beg for his assistance, he proudly announces to them that he had by now sent Creon to Delphi for an oracle and that everything was under control. This shows clearly that he is far much ahead at all times. His quickness in action is also seen when without a second thought, he sends for the shepherd who knows the mystery about his birth to testify, something that endangers his life. Oedipus shows his confidence and intelligence when he saves the people of Thebes by correctly answering a riddle (Euripides, Sophocles and National Theatre 76). He continues to show confidence when he grills Tiresias and Creon concerning the murder of Laius (74).
Creon on the other hand has been feathered as secretive and with superiority. When he comes back from Delphi with prophesy, Creon wants to tell Oedipus in private first because he does not want to put him into shame before the public (72). This shows that he is secretive and wishes to discuss matters only to who are those concerned. Creon also shows superiority when he says that Oedipus and him rule the city equally thus he has no intentions of throwing him out of power. He also practices his superiority when Oedipus is exiled and he becomes the king.
The chorus in the play responds to events as they take place, commonly in a conventional way. It basically longs for and communicates the hope for solidity and calm. For instance, it is the chorus that pleads with Oedipus not to send Creon to exile, it doubts the actions of Antigone and questions her wisdom and generally convey messages of hope (Ancient Greek). The essence of this is mainly to uphoold the status-quo and to prevent more turmoil.
Motifs include all structures and fictional devices recurring in literature so as to help in developing the major themes of any given work. Some of the things that keep recurring include suicide, blindness and sight, and tombs.
Nearly all the characters that die in the drama do so out of their own will. For instance, Jocasta hangs herself after finding out that the man he has been calling her near husband is indeed his own son (Euripides, Sophocles and National Theatre 75). Antigone also hangs herself whle Haemon and Eurydice knife themselves to death. Eteocles and Polynices kill one another in a fight. Oedipus imposes pain into himself and eventual becomes blind for the rest of his life.
Blindness and sight is manifested both symbolic and literal. Oedipus is perceived as a man of clear sight due to his ability to act quickly but he is in really sense blind to his own identity. He does not know anything about himself for several years and when finally the truth downs on him, he decides to prick his eyes, never again to see the horrible reality about his life (Sophocles). This kind of blindness is also true for Creon; he knows little about the reality. Tiresias on the other hand is physically blind but he sees far much beyond than everyone else.
Tombs and graves are other devices that also recur in the play. Thebans believe in the traditions of burial, therefore to some extent, the play revolves around interments. For instance, it is traditional for a dead to be buried and when Polynices body is left on the ground, the gods get annoyed. Oedipus is buried in Colonus for the belief that a man who kills one of his own is not supposed to be buried on the same land (Sophocles).
In conclusion, Sophocles has tried as much to keep his play “Oedipus” as live as he could by exhausting almost all the elements of drama. He has confidently given his characters roles that have helped to bring the plot and themes. He also has used motifs such as suicide, sightlessness and sight, and tombs to convey his ideas to the reader.