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Diaz, Benedict B.


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Oedipus: Complex Survival

As great Greek Tragedies survived from surpassing from the test of time,

Oedipus Rex or Oedipus The King is one of the examples of it which is still being

admired by spectators even nowadays. They assert that it reveals a mythic story

concerning “murder mystery, political thriller, and psychological whodunnit” for being

a tragic story about a struggling man who is being punished by an oracular

predestination of patricide and incest, and ended up blinding himself. Using Plato

and Aristotle’s Literary Theories stipulated by Classical approach, it was proved that

the Tragedy is forsooth a fragment of literature that mirrors its existence as a

classical literary text. Through examining (1) good and bad imitations of life or reality,

or Mimesis and a sense of censorship respectively, and (2) an action that purges

negative emotions like pity and fear or Catharsis, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex was able

to be facaded as one of the survivors from predominating time and celebrated till

today from lots of dramatic performances.

Imitations of life and reality in the milieu in the text, as stated in the anecdote of

Oedipus, do envitably shown as to how it was written as in the form of tragedy in

which it is mentioned that it is an imitation of life on where Oedipus Rex is an

example of it. Hence, imitation is seen in the text since tragic happenings might

envitably occur in real life like patricide or killing their father and incest or having

sexual relationship with a relative, as to how Oedipus unknowingly killed Lauis and

marry Queen Jocasta, her mother. It can also be seen a case of suicide when Queen

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Jocasta committed it on where it can also happen in real life. Another, the city of

Thebes is a famous city in Greece whereas it is well-known as Dionysus’ own city

where he was born as well as Thebes is famous in Greek Mythology for Zeus had a

daughter here with Hera which is a Theban princess once. So, it proves that the said

tragedy captured reality from another reality which is from mythology. Likewise, one

of the characters here in the text is Tiresias which is also mentioned from Persian

mythology, particularly in the Epic of Gilgamesh, on where it is also stated that he is

a blind prophet who can foresee time.

Nevertheless, most of these imitations contradict his philosophy about art and

literature on where he clearly stated that “what is good and what is beautiful should

be the one to be exemplified.” But since all of these things were presented in the text

clearly, censorship was not being fully catered in the Tragedy because of the tragic

events in the life of Oedipus and his family by (1) killing his own father, (2) marrying

his own mother, (3) conducting suicide of Queen Jocasta, and at the end (4) raking

out Oedipus' own eyes so that he may not see the miseries he has caused with his

family. Also, it can be seen a bad imitation of life to the part presenting the tragic

prophecy from the young Oedipus that he will soon kill his own father. It is known that

a child is a manifestation of innocence but instead, it was being debunked by

exposing tragic events to the young. Moreover, the character of Oedipus is seen as

“hot-tempered, rash, hasty in forming judgements, easily provoked, and even

somewhat arbitrary” that does not show Plato’s philosophy as a perfect individual. It

is shown in (1) the part where Tiresias had a conversation with then made him

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(Oedipus) loses his temper and insults the prophet, and accusing both him and

Creon of Treason, (2) the part where Oedipus is sentencing Creon to death but

taking it back suddenly, and (3) the part where he is already blind rebuking, “Do not

crave to be master in everything always.” on where this shows his pride of his

wisdom. (Khan, 2018). Furthermore, it is found that by hearing out the story of former

King Lauis and Queen Jocasta giving their own child to other people shows bad

imitation, as far as Plato is concerned. Thus, these do not follow the moral absolute

value in the society, making these bad imitations should be censored but rather it is


On the contrary, Oedipus, as considered as a form of tragedy, is considered

having Catharsis because it is stated that tragedy is a dramatic presentation of high

seriousness which is the description of Tragedy as per Aristotle, Catharsis is seen in

Tragedies where “it is an imitation of action that is of serious, complete, and certain

magnitude.” Pity, as a feeling under catharsis, is seen all over in the play. It started

from the city of Thebes when the people were begging for their king to end the

plague that is almost destroying the city as stated in these lines:


… Come, O best of mortals, and save our city; (50)

come, but be careful, since now this land

and let us never recall of your reign

that we first stood straight, but stumbled later.


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Rather, then, restore this city to safety. (55)

For at that time you gave us great fortune,

be now equal to what you were then

Since, if indeed you would rule this land,

just as you do know, it is far better

to rule over men than a wasteland; (60)

Nothing matters, neither tower nor ship,

if it is empty of men to dwell within.

It is known that begging “suggests earnestness or insistence in the asking” in the

form of pity as to share painful feelings for another (Merriam & Merriam, 2018), or

from the Chorus to Oedipus, so that they will be granted of what they ask for.

Secondly, is when Tiresias felt sad for Oedipus for not knowing his true descent as

seen in the lines:


… You, even though you

See clearly, do not see the scope of your evil,

Nor where you live, nor with whom you dwell. (435)

Do you know your true descent? And secretly

You are an enemy to your own kin,

Both under the earth and on it…


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… for all mortals who will be destroyed (450)

Root and branch, there is not one sadder than you.

Third is when Oedipus becomes distressed by Jocasta's remarks about Lauis

because just before he came to Thebes he killed a man who resembled Laius at a

crossroad. It is seen in the line:


Zeus, why have you wiled me to do this? (766)

And by looking upon the words, it is concluded that he is distress of what he has

done. And at the end, it is found that Oedipus rakes his eyes for experiencing the

grief of what he has done to his parents.


O agent of terrors, how could you dare to

Put out your eyes like that? What god set you to it? (1359)

Moreover, fear is presented in the text on where it was seen on the life of both

parents on where when they heard of an oracle about their son trying to kill them

soon, they tried to give their own son to other people so that they may live. So, it is a

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manifestation of fear because they were proved as frightened of being killed by their

own son who is said to kill them.

In this paper, one will be able to prove Oedipus Rex as classical literary text

who surpass from the test of time. Specifically, through an examination conducted

with the imitations of life and reality in the real world and even from other reality as in

other literature as mythology. Also, it is proved that censorship has not been put in

Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex for it shows tragic events that does not follow Plato’s

Philosophy of art and literature. Likewise, pity and fear in the text is seen in both the

life of Oedipus for being struck unknowingly by a tragic oracular predestination.

Hence, the tragedy’s presentation of (1) good and bad imitations of life or reality, or

Mimesis and a sense of censorship respectively, and (2) actions that purge negative

emotions like pity and fear or Catharsis, is an alter ego who will remain surviving

from any generation and any complex of time, and will be celebrated through lots of

dramatic presentations.

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Higgins, C. and Higgins, R. (n.d.). CliffsNotes on The Oedipus Trilogy. Retrieved

on 16 Jul 2018 from



Khan, A. (2018). Discuss the relationship between man and the gods in oedipus rex.

Department of English Language & Literature IIUI. Retrieved on July 18, 2018




Mastin, L. (2009). Ancient greece - sophocles - oedipus the king. Retrieved on July

16, 2018 from


Merriam, C. & Merriam, G. (2018). Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster,

Incorporated. Springfield, Masachusetts.

Sophocles. (2011). Oedipus rex. Enotes.com.Inc. Greece. Retrieved on July 11,

2018 from https://www.enotes.com/oedipus-rex-text