Book Review: Oedipus the King

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I have just read “Oedipus the King”, a short play by Sophocles.

“Oedipus the King” by Sophocies (via Goodreads)

This Greek tragedy and its doomed protagonist, Oedipus, is well known, but I had never looked into plays about it before, only knowing the basic story from Greek legends. I found this copy in an old textbook I used at university while studying English, and found it of a reasonable length to read it quickly.

Oedipus is an unfortunate character who was supposed to have been left to die as an infant when it was foretold that he would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. This play is set after he is married and while he is King, during a time of great misery for his kingdom. They believe there is a curse on their homeland as crops are failing, unborn children don’t live and there is a general feeling of unease.

After seeking advice from an oracle at the temple on how to heal his kingdom’s bad luck, Oedipus starts to search for the person who killed the old King and through a series of interactions with various friends and messengers, he soon discovers the terrible truth in this tale: it was himself who killed the King, who was in fact his father, and has married the dead King’s wife, who is actually his mother. At this revelation, he and the Queen are both distraught, and Oedipus blinds himself in order to stop him seeing the horror he has inflicted around him.

It is quite a horrific tale, and you wonder how Oedipus didn’t twig that the Queen looked like him, or that he was in fact adopted. It is quite horrendous to hear of how he blinds himself so he can’t see, and then how he cries for himself, the suicide of the Queen, and their poor children who now have no joyful future because of his mistake making them figures of corruption through their incestuous birth.

I give it 7/10 because it’s a good play if you’ve never read it before, but know the story, and you get all the emotional responses to the revelation played out. I find plays a bit dull to read and usually they are quite long, but this one is short and loaded with suspense and emotion. It would be better acted out, as would any play, but I enjoyed it nonetheless because I love a good tragedy!

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