Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2002

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Suffering is one of the most common aspects of Greek tragedy. In Sophocles' Oedipus Trilogy, suffering plays a major role in all three plays and helps to unfold important themes of the trilogy. Suffering involves several different phases. Before the actual stage of suffering, there must be a cause for the pain. Then after the suffering has taken place, one tries to figure out how to end this suffering if to overcome it. Finally, if there is enough will the suffering ends but may leave some other effects. Since in the world of these plays human life is controlled by the gods, often times suffering is brought about simply by the fulfillment or discovery of ones destiny. However, it may be true that sometimes the characters can enact free will, thereby in some cases suffering is self-imposed.

But the suffering of the tragic characters is not done without reason.

In many Greek tragedies, as in those by Sophocles, wisdom is achieved through experiences that entail pain and suffering. "The Odyssey," for example, is a tale of Odysseus's journey in which he suffers many hardships but in the end he returns a wise man that is able to overcome those who seek to take over his reign. This idea that only through pain and suffering can one achieve true wisdom coincides with the concept that humans cannot be all-powerful and therefore have to suffer in certain areas if they have certain strengths in others. All these ideas are emphasized by Sophocles and can therefore be interpreted from his writing.

At the start of "Oedipus the King," we immediately see human suffering as a result of the plague in the city of Thebes. The cause of the plague is Oedipus's wrong-doing, even though neither he nor the city is aware of...