The intention (motivation) of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex
Oedipus Rex, also known as Oedipus the King, is one of the most ironic plays ever written. Sophocles, the author, is a famous philosopher of the ancient times. The Play is about Oedipus, the king of Thebes, who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. An oracle warned Laius, the king of Thebes prior to Oedipus, that his son would slay him. Accordingly, when his wife, Jocasta, bore a son, he exposed the baby on Mt. Cithaeron, first pinning his ankles together (hence the name Oedipus, meaning Swell-Foot). A shepherd took pity on the infant, who was adopted by King Polybus of Corinth and his wife and was brought up as their son. In early manhood Oedipus visited Delphi and upon learning that he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother, he resolved never to return to Corinth. Travelling toward Thebes, he encountered Laius, who provoked a quarrel in which Oedipus killed him.
Continuing on his way, Oedipus found Thebes plagued by the Sphinx, who put a riddle to all passersby and destroyed those who could not answer. Oedipus solved the riddle, and the Sphinx killed herself. In reward, he received the throne of Thebes and the hand of the widowed queen, his mother, Jocasta. They had four children: Eteocles, Polyneices, Antigone, and Ismene. Later, when the truth became known, Jocasta committed suicide, and Oedipus, after blinding himself, went into exile, leaving his brother-in-law Creon as regent. The central theme in this work is that one cannot control his/her fate, whether the intentions are good or bad. Oedipus, the main character in this play is motivated to find the truth, and his intentions are good. The motivation is always followed by the intentions, just as the truth is followed by goodness. There are three critical parts to Oedipus s motivation. There is the prophecy, the realization, and the revelation. They will be discussed consecutively.
The beginning of the play opens up with the dilemma of the plague as explained before. Creon, Oedipus s brother in-law (which turns out to be his uncle), comes from the oracle with the advice to end the plague. He explains the previous leader, Laius, had been murdered, and they haven t found the murderer. More importantly, was the way Oedipus handled the situation. He
had Creon explain this out loud so that the public can hear as well. He tells Creon, Speak for all! My heavy load of care more for the sake than for my own I bear . From this, we learn about Oedipus s honest character, and the closeness he tries to share with the public. After this, Oedipus then pledges himself to find and punish the murderer. There is a usage of irony in the method of punishment, in which Oedipus says, But all men from their houses banish him; Since it is he contaminates us all , when actually it is Oedipus, who is the murderer of Laius and he will be the one who is banished. His motivation is innocent, for this reason is what makes it such a tragedy. Oedipus blindly led his life, not having any clue that the prophecy might lead to truth. This would be the prophecy stage Oedipus goes though.
Now comes the realization stage, of which the reader very well knows that Oedipus s prophecy is true, but Oedipus himself does not know. This is a very interesting situation for the reader. That is because the reader stays in suspense to see how Oedipus reacts to the truth. The motivation of Oedipus in this stage is very interesting because it is at this point, we realize that he has one more quality to his character, and that is anger. For this is shown to us twice, once with Tiresias and Creon, and the other time with the old man. In
Oedipus s blind motivation, he becomes angry if the truth is held from him. Anger is a serious flaw in his character because it leads to Laius s death, and the false accusations to Tiresias and Creon. It is odd how motivated Oedipus is for the answer to such a terrible prophecy. Tiresias even says, I will not bring remorse upon myself and upon you. Why do you search these matters? Vain, Vain! I will not tell you . Even when told this by Tiresias, the soothsayer, Oedipus demands an answer. At this moment, the reader knows that the prophecy is true but Oedipus is still blind to it. Many people say that what you do not know, will not hurt you but Oedipus does not feel the same way. He is determined for the truth, and eventually he will achieve this as he further investigates into it.
Oedipus enters the revelation stage, when he realizes that he killed his father and married his mother. This is probably the worst feeling anyone could ever have. It is the most unnatural and unthinkable act to ever commit. Oedipus s realization is so sad, for one can feel his pain by his words. He says, O Light, this be the last time I shall gaze on thee, who am revealed to have been born of those of whom I ought not to have wedded whom I ought not and slain whom I might not slay! He then plucks out his eyes, so he may see the sin he has committed through his children. The realization of the truth is supposed to he good. For when you are a child, to tell the truth was good, but in this case the truth is very grim. This is exactly why the truth has more of an impact on the audience. People understand the truth as being good, where as in this play the truth is bad, and Oedipus is punished for it. Oedipus s motivation takes a different course at this point as we very well can see. In the beginning his motivation was in concern with what was true. When the truth was presented to him, he was primarily concerned for his children and he asked Creon to care for his children.
Of course by the end of the play Oedipus had no motivation, because he had no reason to live. This was a very tragic ending indeed. I admire Oedipus s character, because he took his responsibilities with honor. He tried to control his fate, but couldn t, even though his intentions were good. Oedipus s motivation had always been righteous, and yet he is punished in the end. He chose to live his life in truth, and was motivated for it. He didn t want to live it in a vague mist, and this is an honorable thing to do. Most people would say he is terrible for the acts he committed, but is it really his fault? There is nothing he could have done to change his course, for it was his destiny. I believe Oedipus to be an honorable man, and I respect him for his honesty and courage.