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"Oedipus Tyrannus"

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The play Oedipus Tyrannus is a Greek play written by Sophocles and first performed in around 425 BC. The play is set in the city of Thebes, which is recovering from the effects of a ravenous plague that had gripped the city. The King of Thebes is called Oedipus and he tries to do everything that he can to ensure that his kingdom recovers. It is told by an oracle in Apollo that the only way for the city to be cleansed from the troubles they are facing is the punishment of the former king Laius’ murderer. Oedipus vows to find the person responsible for this heinous crime and bring him to justice. He asks the counsel of a seer, Tiresias, to help him, but to his shock the seer reveals that it is Oedipus himself who is to blame for the city’s problems, as it was he who murdered Laius. The seer also reveals clues that the king will be horrified when he finds out the truth about his true parents and also information regarding his marriage to Jocasta, the queen and widow of Laius. Jocasta reassures her husband and tells him that seers are not always right, giving an example of her and her husband who had been told that their son would kill their father. As a result of this they had their infant abandoned on a mountain to die. Later on Laius was killed by thieves. This story is meant to show Oedipus that the future cannot be predicted always by people and that the fate can be changed. The tale however has a different effect on the king, as he tells her that he has doubts that his father and mother: Polybus and Merope, the king and queen of Corinth, may not be his real parents. He goes to seek the counsel of the oracle at Apollo in order to ask who his real parents are. He does not get an answer however he is told that he will kill his father and marry his mother. This has disgusted and terrified him and so he flees in the opposite direction to Corinth. On the way he meets a group of men and they have an altercation in which Oedipus kills the travellers. A messenger then comes to Oedipus and informs him that Polybus has died and he must take charge of Corinth. He also tells him that Polybus and Merope were not his birth parents and that he had been found in the mountains by a messenger and then handed over to the couple to bring up as their own child. The story is further unraveled by the herdsman and Oedipus finds out that in reality he was that child of Laius and Jocasta who had been abandoned and that he had indeed killed his own father and married his mother. The play ends with the suicide of Jocasta and Oedipus gouging his eyes out and begging Creon, Jocasta’s brother, to exile him.

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Even though the play was set in the ancient Greek times and has a heavy influence from the contemporary beliefs that the gods have control over the human’s fate, it has a very basic teaching: we should not become proud and think that we can control every aspect of our lives. There are many things that are out of our control, whether this is pegged on fate or the will of the gods. Thus, no one, no matter how powerful or influential he/she is, can plan and control every aspect of his/her life.

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