Oedipus The King, by Sophocles, is a play about how Oedipus lives up his fate that he will kill his father and marry his mother, both of which are extremely bad in the Greek society, even though he thinks he is getting away from it. Despite the Greek notions of supreme power of the gods and fate, Oedipus’ downfall is primarily the result of King Laius’ and his own actions and attempts to defy the gods, consequently Sophocles says that prophecies from the gods of someone’s fate should not be ignored. Prophecies from the Oracle of Delphi are told to King Laius and Queen Jocasta, and to Oedipus.
Sophocles says that prophecies from the gods of someone’s fate should not be ignored when King Laius went to the Oracle of Delphi and received a prophecy that his child, Oedipus, was going to kill him and marry his wife, Jacosta.
” Shepherd – No! No! I said it before–I gave him the child…It was the son of Laius, so I was told. But the lady inside, your wife, she is the one to tell you.
Oedipus – Did she give it to you?
Shepherd – Yes, my lord, she did…To destroy it…She was afraid of dreadful prophecies…The child would kill its parents, that was the story.
Oedipus – Then why did you give it to this old man here?
Shepherd – In pity master. I thought he would take it away to a foreign country– to the place he came from. If you are the man he says you are, you were born the most unfortunate of men.” (86-89)
When King Laius heard this prophecy and returned to Thebes to tell of this prophecy to his wife, they planned to kill their child, but neither had the guts to do it. They had a servant shepherd bring their child to Mt. Cithaeron to kill it, but the servant felt pity for the child and gave him to a fellow Shepherd from Corinth in hopes he could take it to a foreign country to take care of it.
Sophocles says that prophecies from the gods of someone’s fate should not be ignored when he tells that when Oedipus was in the care of his foster parents, Polybus and Merope, he took a journey to The Oracle of Delphi without them knowing.
Essay on Sin in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Ibsen’s Ghosts
The Impact of Sin in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Ibsen’s Ghosts
Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King was written for a Greek audience as a religious right and lesson around two thousand years ago, while Ibsen’s play Ghosts was written as a criticism of the Norwegian society during the 1890’s. Although these plays were written for very different reasons and under different circumstances, the universal theme connecting them is mankind’s liability to sin because the results affect a greater whole. One of the more specific themes of these plays is the negative effect that parents’ sins have upon the generations to follow.
In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is born the son of Laius and Jocasta, the king and queen of Thebes. However, when they hear Apollo’s prophecy (that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother) they decide to destroy Oedipus. Apollo’s prophecy made Oedipus an unwanted child. In this case, the parents’ transgression of the law was that they attempted to defy the gods by evading Apollo’s prophecy. Later Jocasta states that “no skill in the world, nothing human, can penetrate the future” (Sophocles 201). Oedipus, as a later response to her statement says, “…all those prophecies I feared – Polybus packs them off to sleep with him in hell! They’re nothing, worthless” (Sophocles 214). In this way, Oedipus and Jocasta quit believing in the prophecies altogether. In Ghosts, Regine is the result of an affair that Captain Alving had with the housemaid, Johanna. Since Regine is a child born out of wedlock, she is unwanted by Captain Alving because she is the result of his sin, and if anyone were to discover her true origins it could destroy the respect that society has for him. She is also unwant…
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…ther sins and results that happened after that would never have occurred. In short, do not let your pride blind you to the knowledge of those who are wiser than you. In Ghosts, Ibsen’s message is that the Norwegian society was hypocritical and unmoral. This is shown through Oswald’s suffering because he is simply a victim who is paying for what a hypocritical society permits – men’s immorality. The overall idea behind this play is that hypocrites should not criticize others; as Manders criticizes Oswald the companions that he chose during his stay in Paris. However, they are both combined by the intricate link of sin and its effects on the whole.
Ibsen, Henrik. Four Major Plays. Trans. James McFarlane and Jens Arup. New York: Oxford UP, 1998
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Classics, 1984