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Instructor name Date Oedipus and his Connection to Greek Religion The ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, author of Oedipus the King, lived from 495 to 405 BC which was the golden age of Greece (Bloom). He was born into a wealthy family and therefore had the chance to study all the arts and culture of his time…
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Download file to see previous pages In the play, Oedipus’ suffering and anguish is nothing more than a means of amusing the gods so it can seem like a very anti-religious play. A closer understanding of Greek religion shows how this play is actually very religious since it cleverly addresses the concerns of the two largest cults of the time – the Dionysians and the Apollonians. A chronological timeline of events in Oedipus' life as it is revealed in this play starts with a prophecy told at his birth. The prophecy says Oedipus will grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. This prophecy causes his father, King Laius, to order his death. The baby is saved, though and raised in a neighboring kingdom without ever being told that he was not the natural son of the childless king and queen. When he hears of the prophecy, he flees the kingdom so that he will not cause harm to the people he's known as parents. While on the road, he argues with and murders his father and then rescues the nearby kingdom from the Sphinx so wins the reward of his mother's hand in marriage. No one, including Oedipus and Jocasta, know of their true relationship until the events of Oedipus the King which takes place many years later, after the couple has ruled happily together and had four children. To rid the city of a plague, Oedipus vows to identify and punish the man who killed Jocasta's first husband, King Laius. He's warned against it, but pridefully pursues the mystery until it's solved, Jocasta has killed herself in shame and Oedipus has poked out his eyes and wandered into the desert. This back-story is important to understanding how the play relates the religions of Sophocles' time. The Dionysian cult is the one modern people generally think of with the drunken abandonment to the senses, the creativity to be found in nature and the abandonment of the individual in favor of becoming lost in the whole (Kreis, 2004). But it was balanced by the Apollonian cult which was dedicated to analytic distinctions, unique individuality and rational thought; they valued anything that was structured and made sharp distinctions (Kreis, 2004). Sophocles was involved in city planning and council as well as playing important roles in religious celebrations. He would have been interested in promoting adherence to regulating customs such as appropriate religious observance. Representing the two sides of human nature, Oedipus the King helped summarize the values of each religion and clarify the need for balance between them in order to live a happy, healthy, successful life. The play follows the common pattern of Greek tragedy and builds on cultural values. It starts with the idea that Oedipus failed to avoid his prophecy through no fault of his own, a Dionysian value in that it is uncontrollable nature, but Oedipus' fate is sealed by the doom placed on his family when Laius fails to follow the rules of hospitality, providing Apollonian logic. Because of his successes and his happiness with four nearly grown children, Oedipus is confident that he has outwitted fate, Dionysian evidence of prosperity. Yet, it was always Oedipus’ Apollonian exercise of free will and determination that brought him to the crucial points of his life that caused him to seal his fate long before he had a chance to realize it. It was his Apollonian conscious pursuit of the truth that led to the end of his happiness, but it was his Dionysian nature that drove him to seek the truth. The ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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