Oedipus – Analysis of the Themes Explored in Episode 2 Essay

Episode two focuses mainly on the accusations towards Oedipus placed by Creon. This is also our first encounter with Jocasta, Oedipus’ wife – she continually tries to quell Oedipus’ suspicions brought on by Creon and the prophet, and reassure him that the God’s have not pre-decided his destiny; that he is still free to ‘create’ his own future…

The initial theme explored in Episode 2 is really a continuation on from Episode 1 – that being the sparking of the suspicion that Oedipus could in some way be linked to the murder of his predecessor, King Laius. Through the use of Creon and the prophet Tiresias, Sophocles is able to create doubt in the characters minds (particularly Oedipus), and develop the constant sense of confusion, which enhances the adventure the audience is taken on to the eventual truth.

The audience however, already know of Oedipus’ fate/destiny, and that he long ago, unbeknownst to him, stumbled into it – Sophocles use Episode 2 to somewhat ‘moisten the appetite’ of the audience, creating suspense and thrill. This is a major theme in the sense that, with the help of Jocasta’s panicking and continual reassurances, it ignites Oedipus’ own suspicions about himself, starting his arduous downward spiral.

Although the audience is well aware of Oedipus’ fate, Sophocles continues on using Jocasta as a tool to deny it. Through her constant reassurances to Oedipus, and disregard to the God’s claiming “so much for prophecy” – this blasphemous act shows just how much Jocasta is willing to defend her husband… her King – Sophocles uses her to confirm the audiences beliefs about Oedipus and how deeply involved he is with Laius’ murder. Episode 2 is effectively used as an ‘appetiser’ for the meal to come – Sophocles makes the audience even keener to witness the revealing of Oedipus as the murder of Laius; as damning as it may be, the audience is still very much eager to see the story unfold before their eyes.

Episode 3 ; 4 – How do the strands of the plot come together in this section of the play? How does Sophocles handle the recognition and reversal?

Episodes 3 ; 4 are the areas in which the several strands of the play come together. Through use of two characters in particular, Sophocles is able to unravel the great mystery surrounding Laius’ death and Oedipus’ past, and intertwine the two events into the eventual fall of Oedipus.

Episode 3 is really the episode where Oedipus begins to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. With the aid of the messenger, Sophocles can create a great swelling of want in Oedipus’ mind, which is mirrored in the reader/audience. However, Sophocles is tricky just before he gets the messenger to insinuate the non-existence of a blood tie between Polybus and Oedipus – he begins the downfall with a quick uprising with the news that Polybus is dead; then he brings Oedipus’ world crashing down. Finally after intensive interrogation of the old Shepard, Episode 4 reveals what the audience have been anticipating – the downfall of Oedipus. Sophocles milks this scene for all it’s worth by using the Shepard to draw it out and extend the scene to create an overwhelming feeling of anticipation.

Sophocles uses three main characters to handle the recognition of Oedipus’ fate – the messenger, the Shepard, and importantly, his own wife/mother Jocasta. The messenger and Shepard are significant, because they present the facts to Oedipus and allow him to play around with the information for a while, letting him decide what course of action to take next. However Jocasta is used effectively as a means to convince Oedipus about the fate he has fulfilled and make him continue on his journey and “see the truth at last”.

Sophocles makes Oedipus’ recognition of his situation parallel that of his city, Thebes. Sophocles uses Oedipus as a representative of the human condition of the people of Thebes; Sophocles makes Oedipus’ downfall more contagious than to just himself – the reversal affects ‘his’ city of Thebes as well. Sophocles makes clear Oedipus is experiencing the worst possible effects of this family curse, and the reversal brings about a feeling of sympathy in the audience for the poor King.

Through use of specific characters, Sophocles is able to bring the many strands of the plot together and bring about the end of Oedipus. This is handled through presentation of facts, which are then reinforced to seel Oedipus’ recognition of his fate, and set in motion the reversal of his kingly position.

Hagen Dittmer

English, Oedipus

Choral Ode 5 – How are the ideas explored in this ode central to the play?

Throughout the play, Oedipus has always represented the human condition of his city Thebes – of mankind. The chorus make this connection straight away citing “O the generations of men the dying generations”, comparing Oedipus’ downfall to that of the city and mankind.

All the ideas explored in the ode (importantly, Oedipus’ rise and fall) relate back to what has happened in the play, and how they have lead to his eventual destruction.

The ideas in the ode are explored in chronological order, from the encounter with the Sphinx to Oedipus being “dragged in to the light” – al being revealed, the “dirge” that “comes pouring fourth”.

A central point to the ode is its reference to the ‘pollution’ Oedipus has brought upon the city of Thebes, and the “night” he has brought “down upon (their) eyes” – the strong feeling of shame the citizens feel towards him. The chorus do a big run on the incest that has occurred right before their eyes, adding to the shame of the whole affair. It is almost as though the people of Thebes feel deceived by Oedipus, even though he really had no control himself, over what was to transpire.

The ideas explored in the ode all relate back to the central point of the play and the source of all that goes wrong for Oedipus, that being the curse. This is simply the final result of the curse; all that has gone wrong is summed up in the ode – every idea explored in the ode is central to the play. It is the cursed journey that was Oedipus’ life.

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