Oedipus the King

I was expecting a lot of things from this play, mainly because I had always heard a lot of it, but I had never actually read it. After reading it, I could see what made it such a classic Greek literature, yet I really didn’t enjoy reading it. The way Oedipus is just working away to his own destruction was pretty disturbing to me. The amount of dramatic irony in this play is ridiculous, and it was a bit too much for me.¬†While I knew the story before I read it, the amount of dramatic irony just made it difficult for me to expect any surprises while reading. I knew Oedipus was going to have to find out eventually, and that being the hero of the story, he would punish himself.

I found that for the first time in our reading list, Oedipus is the first “hero” with which I didn’t have a very strong connection with. While I definitely pitied him, and felt sorry for him, I had difficulty relating or connecting with Oedipus. Particularly in certain parts, like when he picks on the blind beggar. While of course those parts are important to foreshadow, and add to the irony (of which there’s already plenty of), I felt like it made Oedipus inconsistent as a character, especially when as a king he is so adamant about righteousness and justice.

While the play is definitely a tragedy, I don’t feel like it is a traditional tragedy. This play is a tragedy from the very beginning, with absolutely no deviation or opportunity to surprise the reader. It essentially felt like I was just waiting for Oedipus to realize what we all knew the entire time. This isn’t a tragedy which is able to connect the reader to a pair of star-crossed lovers, before their tragic deaths ensue. This tragedy instead is one in which the reader simply knows everything, and just waits until the hero punishes himself. This tragedy wasn’t exactly tragic for me, while I definitely felt bad for Oedipus who constantly works away to his own demise I never felt remotely sad. Perhaps the only tragic part of the play is how cruel Oedipus’s punishment to himself is.

While I’m sitting here, bashing the play about not being tragic enough, I think it’s important to recognize how Sophocles most likely had a very different definition of “tragedy” than we do today. In the modern era, we have many defining archetypal tragedies like Romeo and Juliet which set the standard for what to expect form a tragedy. Sophocles had none of these classics to guide him in his writing, in fact, Sophocles is very probably ahead of his time. While I recognize how fantastic this piece of literature is, I was still disappointed by my expectations set by our modern definition of tragedies.

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