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Did Oedipus’s Flaws Outway His Strengths?

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“Oedipus the King” by Sophocles reveals that human strength overpowers our weaknesses. An individual’s strength is perceived through emotions, actions, and the very essence of one’s character. The protagonist Oedipus has power, high status and a great influence in Thebes. Thebes is struck by another plague which is rapidly spreading through the city. The only way to destroy this plague is to seek out the individual who murdered King Laius. Oedipus begins the search of the truth. The people of Thebes admire Oedipus’ strength and come to him for help in overcoming the plague. They believe this epidemic has struck Thebes because the individual who killed Laius, remains alive and unpunished. Nevertheless, in the course of seeking the killer of Laius, Oedipus comes closer to the realization of the prophecy, which states that he will kill his father and wed his mother. This play explores the strength and weakness of Oedipus’ character. His strength is shown in his ability to put the needs of his citizens above all, by helping them in their time of need. His strength is also shown in persistence; as he is so eager to find out the truth and eventually does. Although Oedipus always has good intentions, his biggest weakness, is his excessive pride which eventually leads to his downfall. However, Oedipus makes many unalterable errors throughout the play, but he acknowledges these faults and holds himself accountable for it, which makes this play a optimistic rather than pessimistic.

One of the greatest strengths that oedipus possess’ is his ability to always put the needs of the Thebans above all. In the beginning of the play, there are numerous issues that are drastically affecting the city of Thebes. The Chorus comes to speak to Oedipus about the terrible conditions occurring in the city; at his Royal Palace. The Chorus leader stated “there is no way to count the pains we suffer. All our people are sick. There is no sword of thought, which will protect us. The fruits of our famous land do not ripen…” (Sophocles, 13) This statement reveals the pain and suffering the citizens are enduring, their crops are being destroyed, women are in agony when they are giving birth, and the plague has taken the lives of numerous individuals, all in all, the city of Thebes is in great distress. The courageous Oedipus decides to take serious action, as his number one priority is always the concern(s) of the citizens; by sending Creon, his brother-in-law to the Oracle of Delphi to find a solution to eliminate this issue.

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Another great strength Oedipus possess’ is his persistence; which is a characteristic every leader should embody. Throughout the play, Oedipus is eager to know the truth about the murder and refuses to step back, he remains persistent until he figures it out. He had to forcefully take particular information out of multiple people, but in the end he found the truth that he was searching for. Jocasta warns oedipus and tells him to stop going after truth that he is anxiously seeking, Jocasta states “In god’s name, if you place any value on your life, don’t pursue the search. It is enough that i am sick to death.” (Sophocles 60) Oedipus being anxious to find out the truth states, “nothing will move me, i will find out the whole truth. ” (Sophocles 61) This statement reveals that Oedipus was not willing to change his mind and refuses to give up until he finds this truth. Furthermore, his persistence assisted Thebes in getting out of the plague because no one knows what the cause of the plague is and how to put an end to this fatal issue. Creon goes to Apollo and there he learns, that the individual who murdered Laius must be exiled out of Thebes in order for the plague to die out.

Although most individuals prefer to highlight their strengths; their weaknesses also plays a part in who they are. Throughout the play, Oedipus was oblivious to the truth about many of the events that occurs in his life. Having excessive pride has destructive effects on a person, however one only comes to the realization of this once they are stuck dealing with the consequences. Oedipus is an individual who is prideful and this ultimately leads to his destruction. This is revealed when he assumes he can change his fate upon discovering the prophecy by leaving Corinth. When the Corinthian messenger comes to inform Oedipus about the death of his adoptive father, Oedipus states “Apollo once announced that I am destined to… That is why for so many years I have lived far away from Corinth.” (Sophocles 54) He tries to avoid this prophecy from happening by leaving Corinth, but he does not realize that he cannot change what the Gods have written for him. He also states “I will never go to the city where my parents live,” (Sophocles 55) he is creating his own destiny thinking he can keep away from the incident that will take place but instead he is going towards fulfilling the prophecy.

The play Oedipus the King reveals that Oedipus’ strength outweighs his weaknesses. He demonstrates his strengths in many occasions throughout the play, such as aiding his people through the disastrous plague and not giving up on finding the individual who had to be killed in order for the plague to demolish. He also shows his weakness in the great pride he has. Oedipus thinks he can challenge the Gods and change his destiny but unfortunately he was not able to run away from his fate. Despite the fact that Oedipus made tragic mistakes, he learns and takes full responsibility for his devastating actions, which fundamentally makes this play an optimistic one rather than a pessimistic one.

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Did Oedipus’s Flaws Outway His Strengths? (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
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