Homer on Oedipus

[271] "I also saw fair Epikaste mother of king Oedipus whose awful lot it was to marry her own son without suspecting it in her noos (mind). He married her after having killed his father, but the gods proclaimed the whole story to the world; whereon he remained king of Thebes, in great grief for the spite the gods had borne him; but Epikaste went to the house of the mighty gatekeeper Hades, having hanged herself for grief, and the avenging spirits haunted him as for an outraged mother – to his ruing bitterly thereafter.

Sophocles’ Oedipus
Seeing vs. Blindness
Ignorance vs. Knowledge
Oedipus vs. Tiresias

When Oedipus has sight he is ignorant, so when he gains knowledge he becomes blind, i.e., he becomes like Tiresias.

Oedipus Tyrannos
Oedipus Rex
Oedipus the King

Oedipus the tyrannos of Thebes realizes that he is really king of Thebes.

Sophocles’ Oedipus "Trilogy"
Oedipus Tyrannos (c.427 B.C.)
Oedipus at Colonus (401 B.C.)
Antigone (c.442 B.C.)


Approaches to the Oedipus Myth


Oedipus the Hero:

1.) the pattern
2.) folktale themes
3.) the Quest
a.) the Sphinx’ riddle
b.) the quest for personal identity

Like Odysseus, Oedipus is a hero of the intellect, not physical strength

Oedipus the Tragic Hero (Aristotle):

The Freudian Oedipus
the Oedipus complex

Charter Myths (Malinowski)
incest taboo
burial rites

Ritual Myth (Frazer)
the truth of oracles
the hero cult of Oedipus at Colonus

Structuralism (Levi-Strauss)
mediating contradictions

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at toms@monm.edu.

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