Oedipus the King, issues in morality

Essay by TriplimUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2004

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Sigmund Freud stated the play Oedipus the King is an immoral play and sets aside the individual's responsibility and social law. Freud also states that divine forces in the play are partly to blame for the immoral conduct of the characters. This is not an accurate statement. Oedipus the King is not immoral because the main character, Oedipus, did not intend to do wrong. Oedipus's ignorance about his lineage prevents him from knowing that the man he killed on the road was his father and that his marriage to Jocasta was immoral. Throughout the play Oedipus is searching for truth and justice, not trying to evade it.

Moral is defined as being in accordance with or concerned with right conduct or its principles; conforming to these principles rather than to law or custom. Morality is an internal compass which points us in the direction of right or wrong.

As humans, we are not born with this knowledge, it is taught to us by our family, friends, and culture. A government or community may impose moral standards, but ultimately these values are unique to each individual. Therefore, what was immoral to Freud, may not be to other people.

Freud states that human beings have certain moral instincts that would guard against a crime such as marrying one's mother and that the Gods deceived Oedipus. This deception allowed Oedipus to believe his marriage to Jocasta was legitimate. However, the play leads the reader to believe that Apollo did not plan this deception. The plague is sent to punish the land of Thebes because of the actions of Oedipus, primarily the murder of King Laius.

Although human beings may have Freud's moral instincts that offer some protection against this type of conduct, we cannot apply those to the...