Oedipus the King Questions and Answers Pdf Download

Oedipus the King Questions and Answers Pdf Download


  1. Write a brief essay on the dramatic irony in Sophocles’ Oedipus


Elaborate upon the paradox of knowledge/ignorance in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.



Elaborate upon the paradox of sight/blindness in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.


Ans:  The ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus the King by Sophocles presents the paradox between sight and blindness. The theme of “blindness” is so deeply rooted in the play that it enables the readers or audience to think and reflect. Some critics opine that the tragedy of Oedipus is an unfortunate result of Oedipus’ oscillation between “knowledge” and “ignorance” on one hand, and “sight” and “blindness” on the other.


Sophocles cleverly weaves the plot of the play with the help of the concept of “sight and blindness”. Throughout the whole play, Sophocles repeatedly hits the idea of sight and uses it as a metaphor for insight and knowledge. It also amuses the readers to see the protagonist of the play struggling hard to ‘see the truth through his eyes, while on the other hand, Tiresias ‘sees’ the truth that has already occurred in the life of Oedipus being a physically blind person. Again, when Tiresias discloses the fact that he is the murderer.


Another incident of the paradox of sight and blindness comes with the intervention of fate in Oedipus’ life. When he comes to know that he will kill his father and marry his mother at a certain point of time, he runs away from his home (i.e. Corinth) to avert the impending disaster. But his situation becomes like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

The ironical plot of the drama impels him to fall into the snare created by his own fate. He tries to elude the grasp of fate but the more tries to do that the more he comes closer to his doom. When he leaves Corinth for an unknown destination, he kills a man, rather a king, who ironically turns out his biological father (Laius). But the fact is, he does not repent for committing a heinous crime like regicide. Some say that the sense of ignorance in Oedipus is so deep-rooted that he overlooks the grave atmosphere of the incident. Thomas Gray rightly puts out that:


“Where ignorance is bliss, It is folly to be wise.”


Now, the question is what happens to Oedipus at the end? When the ray of knowledge makes him aware of his identity, he cannot bear it and this sense of knowledge leads him to disaster. Some say that Oedipus’ anagnorisis occurs simultaneously with his mother’s/wife’s suicide. With a heart full of despair and a pair of newly opened eyes, Oedipus makes his transformation complete as he exchanges his limited physical eyesight for the spiritual sight possessed by Tiresias; because he thinks that he does not need eyes anymore, as he says:


“What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy.”

Oedipus the King Notes


In conclusion, we may safely say that the utter ‘blindness’ in Oedipus is one of the pertinent reasons behind his tragic fate. Though at the very beginning he comes to know that he is “fated to couple with his mother,” and he “will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear to see,” and most importantly, he “will kill your (his) father, the one who gave you. Chim) life,” but he cannot discover the truth (because of his sheer ignorance) that impels him to make himself blind ultimately. And with this tragic note, the play ends confirming the physical blindness of Oedipus.








2 . Discuss Sophocles’ Oedipus the King as a tragedy.


 Oedipus Rex as a tragic play.


A Sense of Tragedy in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.


Discuss the conventions of Greek Tragedy as can be gathered from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.


“Oedipus is driven to the summit of passion by the agony of body and soul, and at the long last he returns to humility and selfless resignation”- Assess the character of Oedipus in the light of this comment.


Fate is an overreaching presence in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Discuss.


Discuss Oedipus as an ideal tragic hero of the Aristotelian type.


Critically analyze the character of Oedipus to bring out the elements of hubris and hamartia in his character.


“The tragedy of Oedipus lies in his knowledge of the guilt rather than the guilt itself”. Do you agree? Justify your view.


Ans. Nobody will disagree with the fact that Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is a tragedy. Whether it is a ‘tragedy of fate’ or a ‘tragedy of character’ is a debatable issue. Whether it is the omnipotent and omniscient God who is playing his role as a ringmaster or it is the “karma” of Oedipus himself, that is, again, very controversial indeed.


First of all, this is not a play about free will versus determinism. Oedipus is both free and determined as he says at the beginning of the play:


“…Here I am myself, you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus.”

Oedipus the King Notes


According to Aristotle, a tragedy should be serious; now, if we read the play diligently we will never overlook the “grave” and “serious” issue of plague which consumes the people of Thebes little by little. Apart from that, the ironic riddle of Delphi maintains the serious air of the play very well.


. The play has a beginning, a middle, and an end which are peculiar to tragedy.


According to Aristotle, a tragedy becomes successful only when it leaves an invisible excruciating, rather, titillating pain of “catharsis” in the minds of the readers or the audience. By reading the text we can assume easily the amount of pain that Oedipus has gone through.



In the very first scene, the Theban priest invokes Oedipus as the “savior” from the plague, when in fact he is its cause. Later, Oedipus will curse his savior, the man who saved him from death when he was exposed on the mountain in infancy.  It is ironical to see Oedipus blind at the end of the play while at the very beginning of the play he castigates Tiresias for his blindness as conspicuous from his speech:


“You (Tiresias) have lost your power, Stone-blind, stone-deaf-senses, eyes blind as stone!”

Oedipus the King Notes


If we call Oedipus Rex a ‘tragedy of fate’ then some pertinent questions will arise, like, why did the plague not break out immediately after Oedipus’ marriage to Jocasta? Why did Oedipus never mention his crossroad-incident to anybody? And why did Jocasta not tell Oedipus about the little child that she and Laius left to die on the mountain? And most importantly, why Oedipus took so long to put two and two together to discover the truth (about the murder of Laius and his identity) when especially after Tiresias had told him that he was the murderer, (“I say you are the murderer you hunt”)

Tragedy should evoke a sort of “pity” and “fear” in the minds of the readers. Now, the question is, what is the “hamartia” or “flaw” of Oedipus, as we all know that a tragedy must demonstrate a “tragic flaw” of the protagonist? One can say that the rude behavior of Oedipus as he rebukes Tiresias for not telling the actual truth about the murderer and his pointless quarrel with Creon can be taken as his “tragic flaw”. Then, is it not like Oedipus is “more sinned against than sinning”? That is the question!
One can also say that Oedipus’ downfall is camouflaged in the action of his ‘quest motif, as he demands to ‘know himself’ from the beginning of the play. There is no shadow of a doubt that Oedipus suffers from ‘hubris’ or of ‘excessive pride’
It is interesting to note that Oedipus’ sense of ‘amor fati’ turns out to be the cause behind his existential crisis. If truth is beautiful then Oedipus’ ‘beautiful truth’ is the unattainable one. Precisely, it is the sense of guilt in Oedipus that impels him to search for the ultimate truth but when he gets to know about it he is left with nothing but shedding tears by pointing his finger at himself:
“The blackest things a man can do, I have done them all!”
In the conclusion, we may say that Sophocles’ Oedipus the King majestically portrays the quest for identity. It also shows how ‘life’s little ironies’ prevent one to gain that eternal knowledge. Ironically chance makes him the king of Thebes and chance snatches his crown away as well. Chance saves him from the grasp of the ‘icy fingers’ of death and again, chance instigates him to blind himself. Certainly, chance works mysteriously. On this note, we can say that Oedipus stands out as a perfect example of the combination of human suffering and human happiness. The more he suffers the more he acquires knowledge, the more he acquires knowledge the more he becomes aware of his identity, and the more he becomes aware of his identity the more he goes to the precipice of his doom. It is certain that nobody is completely happy in this world, for, as Hardy said, 
“Happiness is but an occasional episode in the general drama of pain.” The drama ends by throwing lights on the complicated catastrophic paths of life leading undoubtedly to the grave, where all human agonies end. At the very end of the play, Sophocles uses his chorus as the representative of humanity.
3. Critically analyze the character of Jocasta.
Ans. If there is any character in Oedipus the King who is responsible for holding the ironical twists in the play then it is undoubtedly Jocasta. She represents a hidden unconscious “vile” of human nature which enables her to fall as the most immediate victim of Oedipus’ fate. 
Jocasta has played a very crucial as well as a confusing role in the play Oedipus the King, she is both the mother and wife of Oedipus. Again, she is the mother of Oedipus’ children as well. Jocasta first appears on the stage to resolve the conflict between Oedipus and Creon. She rebukes both of them for fighting over private matters at the very gruesome moment when the whole city is suffering from the plague:
“Aren’t you ashamed, with the land so sick, To stir up private quarrels?”
If we dissect the text we will come to know that Jocasta is very intelligent and quick-witted. She knows how to cope with critical situations. That’s why when Oedipus eagerly asks her about the truth she forbids him from being engrossed in the matter. Rather, she asks him to stop hunting the truth. Even when Oedipus hears the death of Polybus “(king of Corinth) he thinks that he still has one more prophecy to elude (i.e. marrying his mother), but then Jocasta persuades him by saying :
“fear? Why should a man fear? It’s all chance, chance rules our lives.”
Jocasta does not negate the presence of ubiquitous fate in the life of Oedipus. Again, when Jocasta sees Oedipus struggling hard to know the truth about his birth she goes on saying that she doesn’t believe in fate and the oracle is false, though, in reality, she becomes a victim of that inscrutable fate.
Some critics say that the relation between Jocasta and Oedipus is more of a mother and son than of a husband and wife. Jocasta’s rebuke to Oedipus for quarreling with Creon can be interpreted as a sign of having an authoritative (domineering) voice over Oedipus. There is a major hint of ‘Oedipus Complex’ in the play when Oedipus fears wedlock with his mother and Jocasta persuades him by saying:
“Nor need this mother-marrying to frighten you: Many a man has dreamt as much. Such things Must be forgotten if life is to be endured.”
After a certain point of time, the Corinthian messenger informs Oedipus that there is nothing to worry about as Polybus and Merope are not his real parents. Gradually the truth dawns upon Oedipus and he comes to know that he had been left to die on Mount Cithaeron by his parents. It is quite shocking to know that a mother who undoubtedly loved her son chose to stay with her husband by killing her newborn son. What can be more shocking than this? Some critics tend to say that Jocasta digs her own trap and ultimately she falls into that trap. It fails to make the readers decipher that if she was already aware of the oracle, then why did she marry someone half her age? But putting aside her cruelty and her so-called savage nature we will have to agree that she is a very kind-hearted and timid woman as well. The inevitable fathomless disgrace that she gets after knowing the truth she finds that it is quite absurd to live in this stigmatized and traumatized condition. And probably for this reason she commits suicide. And before bidding farewell to Oedipus she castigates him for one last time by saying:
” …man of agony that is the only name I have for you, that, no other—ever, ever, ever!”
Now the prominent question is, why does Jocasta commit suicide? Some say that in the end, Jocasta was willing to live in incest with Oedipus so long as the truth remained a secret kept from him and the people of Thebes. But when the truth was revealed, she could no longer bear her private pain, and she found it easy to take her life rather than living in such a condition. But it is also important to note that, Jocasta holds her responsible for the tragic events of her life. This feeling of guilt culminates in Jocasta’s suicide. Faber interprets Jocasta’s suicide as a means of expressing her frustrated anger toward her dead husband (Laius).
In conclusion, we may say that Jocasta proves herself as an ideal companion of Oedipus. Actually the play revolves around the workings of Jocasta, representative of fate. Jocasta holds the dramatic conflict of play so well that it occurs to some critics that though the play is named after the male protagonist, it would have been better if Sophocles had chosen “Jocasta” as the title of the play.
4. Examine the role of the chorus in the play Oedipus the King.
Ans. According to M. H. Abrams, “among the ancient Greeks, the chorus was a group of people, wearing masks, who sang or chanted verses while dancing with movements at religious festivals.” Apart from this, the chorus also served mainly as commentators on the dramatic actions. Like in Oedipus Rex, the chorus of the classical Greek theatre would consist of representative citizens of society which the drama was supposed to represent. 
 The chorus played a major role in many plays like Milton’s closet drama Samson Agonistes (1671), T. S. Eliot’s poetic play Murder in the Cathedral (1935), Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1943-45), Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (1945), etc. In Oedipus, the King the elders of the chorus represent men of Thebes who respect their gods and king. One of the fundamental roles of the chorus is to provide actual context and previous events to the audience, and the Sophoclean chorus does not fail to do that. In the play, Sophocles uses his chorus as a tool to provide information and a means of invoking gods as well. Sophocles does not merely choose dialogues for them, rather he chooses some ‘choral odes’ for them. The choral odes are in the form of lyrics, they have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The basic role of the chorus in Oedipus the King is to sing comments about the ongoing situations in the drama. The functions of the chorus in the play can be categorized into five points: 1) mediating, 2) evaluating, 3) foreboding, 4) guiding, and 5) dramatizing. When the chorus appears on the stage, they inform us about the terrible situation of Thebes and they plead to gods for saving them from the gory and devastating condition as conspicuous from the first choral ode:
“Thebes like a great army dying and there is no sword of thought to save us, ……children dead in the womb and life on life goes down.”
The Sophoclean chorus makes us think of the events of the play very intensely. The Chorus is very concerned about the fate of Oedipus and the fate of the people of Thebes in general. When the Chorus hears that Tiresias has accused Oedipus of murdering Laius he does not judge his king on the basis of Tiresias’ speculations, rather, the Chorus shows his respect and his gratitude towards him, which is very remarkable indeed. The Chorus sings:
“I know nothing, not in the past and not now, no charge to bring our king, no cause to attack his fame that rings throughout Thebes-not without proof-not for the ghost of Laius not to avenge a murder gone without a trace.”
In their third choral ode, the Chorus sings of ‘hubris’, the pride, overconfidence, and vainglorious magnanimity of Oedipus. There is a short conversation between the Chorus and Oedipus which is very crucial in the development of the plot. Chorus humbly requests Oedipus for considering the whole matter (regarding the murder of Laius) in a sensible way as the latter deliberately (out of excessive stubbornness) blames Creon as the culprit of the whole thing. 
Another important role of the chorus is to comment and evaluate the incidents and developments, characters, and themes of the drama. In this drama, we see the same thing. Here the Chorus philosophizes on the fall of Oedipus:
“O the generations of men the dying generation. s-adding the total of all your lives, I find they come to nothing…”
The Chorus plays an outstanding role in the play Oedipus the King, the Chorus upholds the murky reality of Oedipus’ life and his fate very well in the play. We get to know about the plot of the play and we envisage much about the fate of Oedipus from the choral odes. The final choric song is an interpretation of Oedipus’ fall and the death-in-life condition of human beings. The last speech of the Chorus can be interpreted as the true philosophy of humanity. It is truly observed by the Chorus that human beings wait for their death throughout the whole life (which is quite absurd) and ultimately they die (which cannot be evaded), and it’s a never-ending process. The Chorus puts this philosophy in a very poetic way, as they say:
Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day, count no man happy till he dies, free of all pain at last”
5. Elaborate upon the picture of Athenian City State as represented in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.
Comment on the depiction of the plague in Oedipus the King.
Ans: Sophocles, one of the most important playwrights of the ancient world, weaves the plot of the play Oedipus the King with the aid of the heart-rending picture of a lethal plague. At the very beginning of the play, we see that a crowd of suppliants bearing crowns of olive leaves and fig branches lie despairingly on the steps of the palace of Oedipus. Oedipus enters and asks the people of Thebes why they pray and lament since apparently, they have come together to petition him with an unknown request. The priest gives Oedipus an account of the suffering of the Thebans on their behalf by saying:
“Our city-look around you (Oedipus), see with your own eyes our ship pitches wildly, cannot lift her head from the depths, the red waves of death… Thebes is dying.”
The priest again says that the vivid picture of the excruciating pain of the people of Thebes is so pathetic that one cannot stand the sight of the concurrent confluence of blood coming from every nook and corner of the town for a long time. He says:
“…the fiery god of fever hurls down on the city, his lightning slashing through us-raging plague in all its vengeance, devastating the house of Cadmus!”
It is conspicuous from the Priest’s speech that the people of Thebes believe that their king (i.e. Oedipus) would definitely rescue them from this distressing condition as he had saved them earlier from the spell of Sphinx by solving the riddle posed by her. One can see the spark of blind faith in the eyes of Thebans. They take him as a representative of God and believe that no matter what happens he would certainly be there to take the overwhelming onus of saving his plague-stricken city. One can assume that this scene depicts how the people of Thebes magnificently glorify the strength as well as the power of Oedipus; it is as if they are worshipping their god, called Oedipus. The priest rightly points out:
“Oedipus, king, we bend to you, your power-we implore you, all of us on our knees: find our strength, rescue!”
After hearing these lines Oedipus addresses his tenants as “my children”, and proclaims that he has become completely devastated by seeing the infernal and ruined state of his country. Oedipus knows quite well how to reconstruct his city out of the remaining debris, that’s why he says that he has sent his brother-in-law, Creon to Delphi to learn the reason behind the jeopardized state of his country and how to get rid of it.
We get a more clear view of the plague from the speech of the Chorus as (he) they say(s):
and there is no sword of thought to save us ……. children dead in the womband life on life goes down”
Unanimously, the critical reading of Oedipus the King, its comparison with Thucydides’ history, as well as the systematic review of the existing historical data, lead us to strongly suggest that this epidemic, for which the name ‘Plague of Thebes’ may be used, was an actual historical fact, likely caused by Brucella abortus. Undoubtedly, this plague-stricken picture of Thebes provides us an actual account of existential crisis which is one of the undercurrent themes of this play. When we visualize the tumultuous tragic episodes of people dying of disease, of people struggling to rise (as if) from the grave, of people clutching each other to evade the ‘icy cold fingers’ of death; we are certainly reminded of Albert Camus’ magnum opus The Plague, where we get to see the same heart-rending picture of the titular ‘plague’.


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