The Folk Tale We don't know whether there was a historical Oedipus. Laius and Jocasta were king and queen of Thebes, a town in Greece.
First, Homer gives one version of the myth, but we very commonly find different versions elsewhere — there is no single, canonical version of any Greek myth. Second, when Homer gives at any length a myth from outside his main storyline, he gives it paradigmatically.
Odysseus, too, is on his way home from Troy and he is repeatedly warned: Remember what happened to Agamemnon …". Remember how Orestes …" Now to Oedipus in Homer.
His single appearance in the Odyssey is in Book 11, where Odysseus visits the Underworld, and there meets, among others, the spirit of the departed Epikaste, the mother of Oedipus.
Epikaste tells him how, "in ignorance", she married her son, shortly after Oedipus had killed his father. The gods soon made this known, whereupon, while Oedipus continued to rule at Thebes, Epikaste hanged herself.
Some years or so separate Sophocles from Homer; and while Sophocles has the mother named Jocasta rather than Epikaste, he agrees with Homer that she married her son, and hanged herself when the truth came out; also that Oedipus prior to this marriage had murdered his father.
But there is very little, if anything, else on which they agree. In Homer the myth from the past is told in order to shed light on the present situation; Sophocles presents a version which tells a story from the past, but does so in such a way that it raises and reflects issues of contemporary concern, issues that are within the day-to-day experience of his audience.
Oracles do not feature in Homer, but in Sophocles they play a very important part. It is on instruction from the oracle at Delphi that Oedipus embarks on his search for the murderer of his predecessor as king of Thebes, Laius.
And when this search leads to the revelation that the murderer was none other than himself, this leads to the further revelation that a much earlier oracle, one which had foreseen that Oedipus would murder his father and marry his mother, was true — Oedipus is the son of Laius, and the son, as well as the husband, of Jocasta.
There are occasions when the reliability of this earlier oracle is called into question. Jocasta exclaims at lines of the play"So much for prophecy.
And again"No reason at all to fear the future. Far better for us to live at random, just doing as well as we can. But the play does of course ultimately show that these misgivings have been unfounded — the oracles were right all along. One of our best sources is the contemporary historian Thucydides who, in relating the effects of the deadly plague that struck Athens in and again the following year, says 2.
Even from plague he has devised escape. What need, or even what grounds, were there for belief, or trust, in the gods? Do the gods even exist? Sophocles himself, in a choral ode from an earlier play, Antigonehad celebrated the spectacular achievements of man in such matters as navigation and agriculture.
Epikaste is explicit that it was the gods. But in Sophocles, the moment Oedipus hears from the oracle that the murderer of Laius must be found, he springs into action himself, and single-handedly uncovers that he is himself the murderer, and also the son of Jocasta.Further Study.
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The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus [Sophocles, Robert Fagles] on timberdesignmag.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Towering over the rest of Greek tragedy, these 3 plays are among the most enduring and timeless dramas ever written.
Robert Fagle's translation conveys all of Sophocles' lucidity and power: the cut and thrust of his dialogue. Enjoying "Oedipus the King", by Sophocles Ed Friedlander MD [email protected] This website collects no information.
If you e-mail me, neither your e-mail address nor any other information will ever be passed on to any third party, unless required by law. Differences in versions of Greek myths reflect the contemporary worlds of the storytellers, explains Chris Wilson.
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