The Downfall of a King in the Play, Oedipus the KingI found the tragedy of “Oedipus the King” to be quite interesting. It was not as hard to read as an epic. “The purpose of tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity and fear and thus to produce in the audience a catharsis of these emotions.” (p488, A Handbook of Literature) A tragedy has more drama and builds to the climax. Oedipus’ fate was set into motion by the circumstances he created himself because of his own rashness and arrogance. This is called an inciting incident. “He is headstrong and foolish (in not questioning Polybus and Merope in more detail or pursuing his original question with the Delphic oracle).” (Duke)
For instance, Oedipus could have asked these questions: (1) How was King Laius killed and where? (2) Who are my real parents? He would not have married his mother and had children with her. He would have become King of Corinth. Jocasta would not have hung herself. Oedipus would not have blinded himself. The city would not have been plagued because Laius killer had not been punished.
In today’s society Oedipus would not have gotten away with murder. That was very different in the Greek society; murder was viewed as making someone a hero and more powerful. Although, if one had too much pride that was a sin. How can someone get away with murder and not be affected by it? He killed Laius in cold blood and that is all there is to it.
However, this is how the overall plot of the play evolved. “When the play opens, the city of Thebes is wasting away under a plague that leaves its fields and women barren. Oedipus, the king of Thebes, has sent his brother-in-law, Creon, to ask the house of Apollo to ask the oracle how to put an end to the plague. Creon returns, bearing good news: once the killer of the previous king, Laius, is found, Thebes will be cured of the plague (Laius was Jocasta’s husband before she married Oedipus). Hearing this, Oedipus swears he will find the murderer and banish him. He asks Creon some questions: where was Laius murdered? did anyone see the crime? how many men killed him? Creon answers: Laius was killed outside the city by a group of robbers, and the only witness was a shepherd who still lives nearby.