Understanding Oedipus Rex.

Essay by PumaXcntryHigh School, 12th gradeA+, February 2004

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Oedipus is first introduced as a savior. A priest, surrounded by a crowd of questioning children and peasants, has come to ask Oedipus what may be done to alleviate the terrible blights which afflict the city of Thebes. He comes to hear their story directly, instead of asking them to explain to a messenger: "I did not think it fit that I should hear/of this from messengers but came myself ... Indeed I'm willing to give all/that you may need; I would be very hard/should I not pity suppliants like these" (p.11, 6-13). This role is an extension of the heroic part that Oedipus plays in rescuing the city from the Sphinx in a riddling contest. His first introduction to Thebes is his use of reason to defeat evil, and the people recognize his abilities and respond accordingly: "we have not come as suppliants to this altar/because we thought of you as a God,/but rather judging you the first of men" (p.12,


Despite their views about his personal humanity, they do not see his wisdom as originating from human means. The people of Thebes blame the pestilence destroying their city upon the gods; so, too, do they credit Oedipus's foresight and counsel as being of godly origin. Oedipus himself chooses to ignore this popular conception of his power. He responds to this call for godly aid with an account of his own personal attempts to unravel the problem, never once even making an allusion to immortals. He tells them, "my spirit groans/for city and myself and you at once" (p.13, l.64-65), thereby signifying that he has personally taken the problems of Thebes upon himself to solve, disregarding the usefulness of the gods.

It is Creon who introduces the idea of an oracle from Apollo as a viable solution to...