Oedipus the King – A Masterpiece

Oedipus the King was an eventful story. Full of twists and turns that left me engaged and puzzled. This tragedy was as tragic as a play can get, with the main character marrying his mother and killing his father. Every second of the book was eventful with either arguments or injuries’ and in some cases, death. There were several main reasons I enjoyed this text for one the way it is written, as a play, and for another dramatic irony and emotional writing that is found on every single page.

Naturally, this was not the first time I had come across the unfortunate story of Oedipus. I had stumbled over it many years ago when I visited Greece, it was a popular bed time story. However this was the first time I had read Sophocles and the play titled Oedipus the King. My first thought when I opened the book was: it’s a play? I had never imagined that the story I read as a child was in fact a Greek play, but let me say this, I am so glad that it was. Without all the “extra” words on the page, the plot and characters were far easier to follow, the arguments felt more real and most importantly it kept you wanting to read the next line, then the next one and the one after that.

Oedipus:                                                                                                        You think you can keep this up and never suffer?

Tiresias:                                                                                                          Indeed, if the truth has any power.

Oedipus:                                                                                                        It does but not for you, old man. You’ve lost your power, stone blind, stone-deaf senses, eyes blind as stone! (l. 420-423)

These few lines illustrate the moreish effect of a play. You want to read the next line. You want to know what Tiresias said next. On top of that there is also a certain freedom when reading a play, your mind can wonder, allowing you to picture the scenes in your head without the author attempting to describe them for you. I struggle to read books, I find it a long and argues task. That however, was not the case for a Sophocles play.

I also enjoyed the emotional writing, dramatic irony and the beautiful poetry, woven throughout the story. Where you least expected it one of the characters would burst out in a big speech, always in well written lines of poetry. These speeches, to me, added an emotional value to the play. One line in particular spoken by Tiresias to Oedipus, “Blind who now has eyes” (l. 516). These five words carry the answer to everything, these five words have such value in the play. As we know Oedipus is blind, not physically but metaphorically, as he can not see what is literally right in front of him. In other words he can not see himself. He is the murder. Tiresias also goes as far as to say “now”, blind who “now” has eyes, foreshadowing and predicting what is to come. Dramatic irony added some comedy to a tragedy and can be seen on almost every page. It is this irony that made me love the play even more. It gets the reader thinking, how could he possible say that? For example “Now my curse on the murder…let that man drag out his life in agony” (l. 280-284). Oedipus places a curse on himself, yet he does not yet know what he has done. Everyone in the audience would be laughing or incredulous at this little speech because they all know how dumb the protagonist looks. But maybe it is exactly this to which people relate? In the end I view Oedipus as a hero, a hero who happened to have an unlucky fate, whos life was out of his hands, and who did nothing wrong but pursue an unfortunate truth. I greatly enjoyed Oedipus the King and look forward to reading more of Sophocles’ works in the future.