The play ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ is a famous tragedy written by an ancient Greek tragedian called Sophocles. The main protagonist of this play is Oedipus, happens to complete a prophecy that stated that he would kill his father and marry his own mother. Like in almost all greek tragedies, Oedipus is the tragic hero here and from the prologue and the first episode one may think that the tragic flaw or the weakness of the tragic hero is his intense anger. The play begins with a dramatic situation where the Thebians are undergoing a deadly plague.
In the opening scene there is a civic gathering where the desperate Thebians ask for help from Oedipus. This is a key scene in the play, because Sophocles uses it to portray Oedipus as a good King from the very beginning of the play. In fact the opening line suggests that Oedipus has a sense of paternal benevolence from the way in which he addresses his Thebians as his ‘Children’. (l. 1) This can be further seen in other points of the opening speech where he says that ‘I would be a hard man Not to feel sympathy for a gathering like this’. (l. 12-13)
From the way he sympathizes for the Thebians, one can understand that he cares for his people. Sophocles highlights another good characteristic of Oedipus that makes him a good king in his opening speech: his dutifulness. ‘I thought it wrong to rely on the reports, Of others, so have come here myself’ (l. 6-7). This again manifests his availability as a king and his dutifulness. As the play goes on, an emotive side to Oedipus’s character is also shown where he empathizes with the Thebians about the horrific situation. ‘Believe me, I’ve shed many tears’ (l. 66) . Another quality of Oedipus is being open to his people.
An example from the play would be when Creon returns from Oracle and suggests to go inside to speak about what the Oracle has said about the reason of the plague, and where Oedipus says ‘Speak out in front of us all. I suffer more For these people than for myself’ (l. 93-94) This could be a good characteristic of a King although this shows that he doesn’t think around in situations because here he could have risked to be nominated as the ‘pollution’ directly by the Oracle. At times the lack of diplomacy could be quite dangerous. One of the main features of Oedipus as the King and as a man is his taking of immediate, swift actions.
The first situation in the play where the audience notices this is where he sends his brother-in-law to the Oracle as soon as he finds out about the plague. ‘I have sent Creon, my own brother-in-law, to Apollo’s shrine, in Delphi, to see if he can find out What I can say or do to save the city’ (l. 69-72) Here his rapid acts to seek a solution seems efficient to his role of King, although in other situations he tends to jump in to immediate conclusions.
For instance when Tiresias accuses Oedipus of having killed the Laius,’I say you are the murderer you’re looking for’ (l. 62) Oedipus straightaway points the finger at Tiresias blaming him to be plotting against Oedipus to make over throw to pass the throne to Creon. ‘Vicious slander’ (l. 363) These words show the signs of his rising temper. ‘it’s me you’re trying to throw out, thinking that you Will stand at Creon’s side when the throne is his. ‘ (l. 399-400). A characteristic that that belongs to Oedipus as a king and as a man is his tragic flaw: His acute anger, which leads him to jump into immediate conclusions and to take terrible swift actions.
Among all these aspects Sophocles also underlines another negative feature of Oedipus: his great sense of pride. ‘ ‘Famous Oedipus’ as everyone calls me. ‘ (l. 8) This aspect of his character makes him also be pompous. ‘I, ignorant Oedipus, stopped her. I used my wits; I didn’t rely on birds’ (l. 397-398) This quote also shows that Oedipus has great insight. In actual fact, he was the person who solved the riddle of the Sphinx with his intelligence and who saved the Thebians from the plague. However, Oedipus commits blasphemy by comparing himself to a god by boasting about his great insights. You pray.
Now in answer to your prayers, if you are willing to hear and accept my words and attend to this sickness, You will find protection and relief from your afflictions’ (l. 216-218) These are some other main impressions that the audience is given about ‘Oedipus as a man’ in the play. Overall, I believe that Oedipus was a good King even though his tragic flaw was his own curse which made him jump in to dangerous conclusions that sometimes involved violent acts which as a result made him face problems that he could have avoided only if he controlled his temper.