De-myth-ify: Oedipus (Part 2)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the Sophoclean tragedy, Oedipus Rex(also called Oedipus Tyrannus or Oedipus the King) today. This is part two of a three-part series on Oedipus. This continues from where part one left off. If you haven’t read it, do go and read Part one before you continue here.

The Sphinx would ask every person who encountered it the same riddle and upon getting the wrong answer would murder and devour them.(A bit of an overreaction, if you ask me) So, she asked Oedipus the riddle that many unfortunate souls before him had lost their lives to, “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?” Oedipus was a clever man, he thought carefully and did what no one else before him had done; he solved the riddle. I’ll let you take a second to think about it, try to see if your smarts measure up to Oedipus’. If you already know, shush, don’t spoil it for anyone else.

The Sphinx

Here is Oedipus’ answer: “Man-he crawls on all fours as a child, walks on two feet as an adult and uses a walking stick as an old man.” The Sphinx, in a very un-ladylike manner, was unable to handle her ego after her defeat and jumped off the rock it was sitting on and fell to its death. Hurray! The Sphinx was vanquished. Now Oedipus gets his prize! (Yikes.) The throne of his father(who, I have to remind you he killed) and his mother as his wife. Talk about tough luck.

And thus, Oedipus was crowned king and married Jocasta, both unaware of their true relationship and had four children: Eteocles, Polynices, Antigone, and Ismene. He ruled well for many years, with his mom-wife by his side. Then one day, a terrible plague struck Thebes. Determined to cure his city, he sends his brother-in-law/uncle Creon to the Oracle at Delphi to find out the cause for it. Creon comes back to report that is the gods’ punishment for the killer of Laius was never brought to justice. (Just by the way, Oedipus is Laius’ killer. And he doesn’t know that.)

Oedipus then swears to find and punish the man responsible. He summons the blind prophet Tiresias to seek answers. At first, Tiresias refuses to answer but when forced, he points an accusing finger at Oedipus himself. (Damn, that’s a power move right there.) Unable to fathom how he could be Laius’ murderer he decides that Tiresias had been paid by Creon to blame Oedipus and steal his throne. This is where shit, finally, totally hits the fan.

 

 

images (2)
Tiresias, the blind prophet.

 

 

Jocasta in an attempt to comfort her husband-son, tells Oedipus that Laius was killed by bandits on the road and narrates the circumstances of her husband’s(her actual husband) death. Oedipus is extremely unnerved by the similarity between one of the encounters he had on the road and his mom-wife’s narration. He is understandably, shaken up and sends for that one servant of Lauis’ who survived that encounter.

Before the servant, however, a messenger from Corinth arrives informing him of Polybus’ death (From natural causes). Oedipus is visibly relieved to hear this as that meant he had evaded the first half of the prophecy(You wish Oedipus, you wish.) but fearing that the second half might still come to be, declines to attend the funeral. The messenger, however, tells him to not worry about that as Merope and Polybus were never his real parents. How does this messenger know that? Get ready for the most telenovela and soap opera-esque twist. This messenger is none other than the shepherd who dropped him off at Corinth as a baby all those years ago. (Mic drop.)

 

 

Oedipus Separating from Jocasta by Alexandre Cabanel

 

 

Hearing this and realising that the prophecy had, in fact, had its way, Jocasta flees to her chamber and hangs herself in despair. Oedipus however, still needs more proof and it walks right in as the servant who he summoned comes and verifies the horrifying truth: Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. When Oedipus realises what he has done, he tried to find Jocasta and finds her lifeless body. At this point, he takes two golden pins from her dress and blinds himself in his fury. He banishes himself from Thebes, as he had promised to do to the killer of Laius and lives a long, miserable, guilt-ridden life, to eventually die, as all mortals do. And with that, we come to the disturbing end of Oedipus’s story. ( For real though, thank all the greek gods we’re finally here. The man has been through enough.)

To be continued.

THIS POST’ QUESTION: This is the story of characters with terrible luck.Who do you think has it worst of them all and why? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

9 thoughts on “De-myth-ify: Oedipus (Part 2)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s