Oedipus Rex was written thousands of years ago in a very far away place called Greece. All that we have to know what the culture was like back then is what they left us. Plays and other writings in particular give us a fantastic look into their heads, to see life from their point of view. In this case, “their” is a playwright named Sophocles, the play in question is Oedipus Rex.

The first impression of Oedipus we get is that he is a good king who honestly cares for his people. It isn’t long however before we see his ugly side, hubris. The greeks knew that a true tragedy must revolve around a tragic flaw, in this case, hubris or pride. Pride was a terrible defect in ancient greece, and could not go without punishment. Another classic example from greek mythology is the myth of Athena and Aracne. Aracne is proud and challenges a goddess claiming that she is better than Athena at the skill of weaving. In the end, Aracne is transformed into the first spider, doomed to weave to the end of her days. This was a common model for stories in ancient greece. Oedipus ended up loosing everything, his crown, his wife/mother, his children/siblings, his fortune, and even his sight. Basic Grrek philosophy: If you commit hubris, the gods will punish you and it will not be pleasant.

Speaking of the gods, they were all powerful, no questions asked. Every aspect of existence was controlled by some god or another. Their is evidence of this throughout the play. To get rid of the plague, the gods are consulted to find out what crime brought on the punishment. When the crime is discovered to be murder, The solution is to appease the gods by bringing the murderer to justice.

To the Greeks, a prophesy was set in stone. Numerous characters try to get around them but it never works. King Lauis and Queen Jocasta are so desperate to make sure their prophesy that their son would kill Lauis that they tried to have him killed, and yet Oedipus survives, and unknowingly fulfills that prophesy. When Oedipus hears that he is destined to kill his father and marry his mother, he leaves his own home to insure that that will never happen, and yet it does. No matter what, a legitimate prophesy will come true.

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1 Response to “What “Oedipus Rex” tells us about ancient Greece”


  1. 1 dpalma
    October 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Hi, Hannah,
    I enjoyed your website. You did a good job putting the info (Aristotle, roots of Western Drama) into your own words. The images also worked well.

    Your grade is E-; the only dink was not including an element that pushed the envelope, but good job handling the three bullet points on the assignment sheet.


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