Oedipus Rex - Mona Shores
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Oedipus Rex Response and Analysis Answers Parts One and Two
Part One What CONFLICT or problem do the people of Thebes face at the beginning of the play?
There is a plague on the city causing the young to be sick and die, mother’s to miscarry, herds to become sick and die and the people want help from their King.
Part One According to Ode 1, what god will punish the murderer of Laius?
Apollo will punish him. How do the Theban people feel about Oedipus? He is like a god to them because he rid the city of the Sphinx.
Part One When Oedipus questions Creon about the murder of Laius, what DRAMATIC IRONY does Sophocles begin to develop? The audience or reader of the play knows the story of Oedipus (that he killed his father and married his mother) and was, in fact, the murderer he was investigating.
Part One What is IRONIC about Teiresias the prophet being blind? A “prophet” is said to be able to “see” the future. Teiresias can “see” the future but cannot literally see, hence we have irony. Why is Oedipus’ arrogance and anger toward Teiresias also IRONIC? Oedipus unknowingly accuses T. of having had King Laius killed and is unaware of his own part in the murder; so, in effect, he is “blind to the truth” but has his sight. This is the irony that Oedipus can see literally but is blind to the truth.
Part One What disturbs the chorus’ confidence and how do they deal with their misgivings? The chorus hears Teiresias accuse Oedipus of the murder of their once beloved King Laius, so they are upset by this. They felt devoted to their new king because he had saved them from the Sphinx. They also had witnessed Teiresias’ ability to “see” the future. They are confused but decide to believe in their king after all.
Part One What argument does Jocasta use to persuade Oedipus to ignore the “soothsayers and oracles”? She tells him that the prophecy falsely predicted the murder of Laius by his own son. She goes on to tell how Laius was killed. What minor detail in her argument causes Oedipus to pursue a new line of questioning? She reveals that Laius’ murdered occurred where three roads meet.
Part One Why did Oedipus leave Corinth in the first place? He had been hearing rumors about his not being the biological son of Polybus (king of Corinth) and Merope (queen). He wanted to know if this was true, so he went to the Oracle of Apollo and asked. The answer given was that he would kill his father and marry and have children with his mother. This caused Oedipus to leave because he loved his parents. What personality traits in Oedipus drive him to insist upon questioning the Shepherd (p. 233)? Oedipus is persistent and has a strong desire to know the truth. Possibly his arrogance played a part in the need to know. He also could be considered downright stubborn. Curiosity is another trait we might include.
Part One If you were Oedipus, would you continue to question things at this point or would you pull back?
Part Two What news has the Corinthian Messenger brought to Thebes? The King, Polybus, who is Oedipus’ adoptive father, has died of old age and illness; the city of Corinth has called Oedipus to assume the role of King. The Corinthian Messenger says his news will bring “both joy and grief.” Explain how this is a classic example of IRONY as the scene unfolds. The messenger expects Oedipus to find joy in being King of Corinth but sadness over the death of his father, Polybus; instead, Oedipus is joyful that Polybus is dead but disturbed to hear he is not Polybus’ son.
Part Two After Oedipus threatens to kill the Shepherd from Laius’ court, what crucial information does the Shepherd reveal? He tells Oedipus that Laius and Jocasta had sent their babe with him to Mt. Cithearon to die but the shepherd took pity on the baby and gave him to the shepherd from Corinth.
In lines 1000-1002 what conclusion has Jocasta reached? She discovers that Oedipus is her true son, the baby who was supposed to die on the mountain; and he did fulfill the prophecy made by Teiresias all those years ago. Oedipus had killed his father and she had married her son and had his children! How are lines 1105-1106 the CLIMAX or turning point in the play? These lines occur at the highest point of suspense, just before Oedipus learns the horrible truth about himself.
Summary of the news brought by the 2nd Messenger:
After Jocasta had run into her chambers, she had wept out loud, and then had taken the cord from her gown and used it to hang herself. Oedipus showed up a little later acting like a madman and tried to get someone to give him a sword. Finally, when no one would help him, he threw his whole weight against the giant doors to the bedchamber and broke in to find Jocasta hanging from the cord. He took her body down from the noose and took one of her brooches (large pins) and stuck them into his own eyes numerous times, blinding himself from the horrible life he lives- he did not want to see his fathers in the afterlife; his children would be constant reminders of his sin; his city would hate him and condemn him.
According to the Chorus in lines 1151-1155, how have Oedipus’ fortunes changed? He had been a most revered King and leader of Thebes having a wonderful life with his wife and children and now he is a blind beggar who will roam the countryside alone and in his own prison of darkness and truth. Reread lines 1317-1322: consider whether Oedipus would be judged guilty today for his “crimes”. Oedipus has judged himself guilty and the punishment was blindness. The question is whether someone is guilty of a crime he did not know he had committed.
How do you think Sophocles felt about Oedipus’ crimes? The acts of murder and of incest were despised in the time of Sophocles. Perhaps his play reveals that the author is torn between believing in fate and free will. Was it Oedipus’ fate to kill his father and marry Jocasta? Or do his own choices and flaws bring about the events?
Has Sophocles maintained SUSPENSE throughout the play even though we knew the basic story? Yes, there are things that occurred in the play which were new to us as we read such as the death of Jocasta. There were many instances of “indirect reporting” by the messenger and others which left room for our imagination. Why does the play continue after Oedipus blinds himself? What DRAMATIC purpose is served by the final meeting of Oedipus and Creon? The final scene provides us with a sense of relief from the dramatic tension and gory nature of the previous scene. It gives us the feeling that Creon and Oedipus have reconciled and shows Creon to be a great king – one who is compassionate and fair. This is also a relief for the reader.