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NAME: Divyanshu Giri

CLASS: Eng Hons Ist yr

ROLL NO. 11611472

MARKS: 1/10

QUESTION: The transgression of the tragic protagonist in

Sophocles' Oedipus Rex  stems not so much from his
doing evil as in his seeking to do good. Discuss.

In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, the protagonist Oedipus

transgresses beyond accepted social norms and commits
crimes. In the play, he is a seeker of knowledge and truth.
He struggles to uncover Laius’ murder and his own
identity despite numerous warnings that he should leave
the truth alone. From the point he got to Kknow about the
oracle, his actions have been a mix of good and bad,
although from different perspectives.
Also, Oedipus has had a both a lucky and an unlucky
beginning. Because of his fate to grow up and kill his
father and marry his mother, his parents send him off to
die on Mount Cithaeron. The lucky child is rescued by a
kind-hearted shepherd and taken adopted by the childless
king and queen of Corinth. While iIt may seem that
Oedipus had thus escaped his fate by being moved away
from his native Thebes to Corinth, but in his youth he gets
to hear of his teenage years reveal the news of his fate.
After knowing this, his flight away from the people whom
he assumed to be his real parents leads him down the
road to Thebes. On the road, Oedipus shows his temper
when he is nearly run off the road by a man in a chariot.
Oedipus kills the man along with his entire entourage.
He does so out of arrogance and anger. Being a prince, he
holds himself in such high esteem that even taking a life
isn't something extraordinary for him, big in front of that
and that's how he unknowingly kills his biological father
Here, his action cannot be considered something that
seeks to do some good for him or anyone else. Running
away from Corinth was indeed intended to bring some
good for Oedipus and his parents as he couldn't even think
of doing the sin that the oracle had foretold him and he
started to run from his fate by deciding to leave his city
One more thing that is to be noted is that Oedipus was too
frightened by the oracle but the accusation revelation that
King Polybus and Queen Merope were not his parents was
not taken by him so seriously and maybe that's why he
didn't even think once before killing the man that the
person he is killing might be his own father.
Later on, he heads towards the city of Thebes and
answers solves the riddlethe question of the sphinx poses.
Although Oedipus is not a native Theban, he still chooses
to answer the riddle of the Sphinx despite her threat of
death to anyone who fails to answer correctly. This shows
that Oedipus was a man possessesing tremendous self-
confidence and to have such courage. When Oedipus
succeeds in freeing the city from the Sphinx's evil reign,
he is becomes instantly famous celebrated and known for
his bravery and intelligence. He then accepts the kingship
of Thebes as the people regard him as their he had
become a saviour for the people there and even agrees to
marry the queen of Thebes, Jocasta. Here, Oedipus' bold
actions seem to be a blessing, a special gift from the gods
used to benefit the city as a whole. – but But here only,
lies his the second mistake, of Oedipus which he again
commits unknowingly, and the second part of prophecy
too is fulfilled too.
The question that can be raised is that Oedipus didn’t
even think once about the fact that the same day he kills
an old man and the same day he is getting married to a
queen of Thebes whose husband has disappeared all of a
sudden. Besides this, before the message from Delphi
came, he never tried to investigate what has happened to
the previous king. One possible answer to this could be
that he was so much overwhelmed with elation on
answering the sphinx that he could not think of anything
but him and his victory or maybe the thought that he had
been successful in running escapingfrom his fate did not
let him think about anything else in the world.

It was only when the city’ was is suffering due to the

plague that Oedipus decides to leave no stones unturned
for the sake of his city people and himself too, as all of
them had turned to him and he was their last hope.
Indeed Oedipus is idealized by the Thebans, yet at times
he seems to spite the gods, assuming taking upon himself
the authority that normally belongs to them. For example,
when the Chorus implores the gods to free the city from
plague, he pompously tells it, "You pray to the gods? Let
me grant your prayers" Yet the people accept this
language from their king. The reason being that since the
gods don't seem to give them aid, they place their hopes
in Oedipus, and this noble hero who has saved Thebes in
the past pledges to save it again. Oedipus assures the
people of his city that he will set things right. He also tells
them he’s more in pain than they are on seeing the
condition of his city and his people. He sends Jocasta’s
brother Creon to Delphi at once to know the will of gods.
However, when the old and blind prophet Tiresias arrives
after Creon had delivered the message, things take a U-
turn. Soon,, Oedipus' character changes to that of a man
in denial -– a man more like a tyrant than a king- – as he
begins to solve the new riddle of Laius' death.
At first, Oedipus keeps on begging to Tiresias to tell him
everything he knew knows but as he refuses to do so,
Oedipus starts criticizing him by calling him a betrayer
traitor and a scum. This was is perhaps to provoke him to
speak the truth but the wise prophet still doesn’t utter a
word. It is when Oedipus accuses Tiresias himself of the
murder of the former king that he’s the latter overcome by
wrath and tells Oedipus that he is the murderer whom he
is trying to find outoutrace; and at this accusation, the
king takes the counter-offensive, actually accusing
Tiresias of the murder. Oedipus is so much taken aback by
at this statement of Tiresias that he starts blaming both
Tiresias and Creon of the a conspiracy against him for the
throne but Tiresias doesn’t pay much heed to him and
leaves after he’s finished. An enraged Oedipus then
charges Creon with of plotting to murder him and
scheming to seize his crown and power. He’s not even
ready to even listen what Creon has to say. Finally, the
Chorus turns to Jocasta to put an end to the quarrel. After
Oedipus has told her about the oracle and the prophet, she
starts tellingtells him about the oracle that came to Laius
and how it didn’t turn out to be true, and so advises that
Oedipus that he too can could have some peace of mind in
this matter. Bbut the situation gets worse in turn.
A growing paranoia grips Oedipus when Jocasta recounts
the story of her husband's murder, leading the king to
suspect his own past actions. He remarks,
absentmindedly, "Strange, hearing you just now . . . my
mind wandered, my thoughts racing back and forth”. Yet
Oedipus is not quick to blame himself for the plague of the
city; indeed he tries to place the burden onto others as he
continues his investigation, blindly trusting his own
superior ability while ignoring the damaging evidence that
surrounds him.
Oedipus is unkind to a blind man, he refuses to listen to
wise advice, puts makes false allegations against on other
people and kills an old man who is his father. All these
actions were a part of his investigation to find out the
murderer of Thebes. His intention was to set his city and
his people free of the plague but that led to his own
downfall. Although, it can be said that all that he did was
intended to bring some good, but all of his actions cannot
be considered good. For example, killing any person is
really socially unethical; insulting Tiresias, who was
considered to be having knowledgeknow the wishes of the
as that of Gods can almost be called a sin according to
Greek society. but But it can't be said that Oedipus bore
the fruits of seeds he had sown because his fate was
predetermined and inevitable. However, it's possible to
say that Oedipus' actions made him aware of the truth of
the events that led to the about fulfilment of the oracle.
Thus, what he did wasn't evil but it was his fate that was
evil and his trying to discover the truth made him meet his
fate at last. Although, his deeds led him to uncover his
destiny and himself, but he was better off not knowing it.
No doubt that he wishes the well-being of his subjects and
he is indeed considered the people’s greatest blessing,
but he turns out to be the greatest curse for them. Lastly,
Oedipus becomes a man humbled with pain and dejection
of knowing the truth of his real selfreality as the
overwhelming evidence forces him to admit embrace his
tragic destiny. Sophocles shows the sudden change in his
protagonist’s persona when Oedipus condemns himself
saying “I stand revealed last-cursed in my birth, cursed in
marriage, cursed in lives I cut down with these hands!”
On his path to uncover the mystery of Laius’ murder, he
changes from a prideful proud heroic king in at the
beginning, to a tyrant in denial towards the middle and
finally to a fearful, condemned man humbled by his tragic
fate in the end.
As Oedipus grows in terrifying self-knowledge, the ‘boon’
of the city himself becomes a curse for it.







I have let the comments I wrote earlier remain, as a way

of showing you that not all that’s not the internet is gold.
Be careful of your prepositions. You make too many
mistakes there.

A mistake you make all too often is not distinguishing

sufficiently between the story as dramatized through the
performance that is running in front of our eyes, and
details that belong to the past and are narrated to us by
one character or another. You treat both of them with the
same degree of speculation, wondering at the motives
that could lie behind these actions. It is important to
maintain the discipline of looking more closely at the part
of the story that Sophocles chooses to dramatize and not
equate things he chose to leave out of his version with
things that he chose to work with.

It is good to see you engage with the text with some

feeling. But it is more important that you do not let such
feeling cloud your ability to read the text for what it is
saying rather than what you think it should be saying.
Your essay at times moves into an almost esoteric
speculation of Oedipus’ motives which is alien to the
story-telling imperatives and habits of this period. In the
process, you end up showing yourself as lacking the
discipline to read a culturally remote text with respect for
the remoteness that encases it.