The Effect Of Atheism In Oedipus The King By Sophocles
Oedipus the King is a play written by Sophocles where he narrates the life of a great king who went from royalty to exile. The play is in the form of a tragedy whereby all along, the protagonist, Oedipus, is subject to many significant events from his birth till when he dies. The play takes place in Thebes, the land of his ancestors. Oedipus is known as a man of great deeds in the city of Thebes and is loved and respected by many. He is known by the Thebans not to originate from their city but because of his noble actions towards them, which involves saving them from the sphinx, who had been persecuting them, he was raised to the level of being their king. As we go forward in the play, we get to realize that in many instances characters involved in the play portray several themes which tend to have great importance in the understanding of different events that surround both the major and minor characters. In this piece of work, I will center my analysis on atheism and its effects on the different characters of the play.
All through the play, we realize that Oedipus as a king and as a person does not bear any religious belief in gods nor their authority on human beings and follows only his own free will. In the tragic play of Oedipus the King, the divine beings (gods) and religion incredibly impact the social structure which thus has a significant impact upon how the occasions spread out. Oedipus being the leader of the city, has a noteworthy character fault in his frame of mind towards the divine beings which causes the grievous nuisance he experiences as the play goes to a conclusion. The common people of the land are religious and live their lives based on what the godly messengers and forecasters let them know. For Oedipus, he has no firm belief in any form of religion and tends to keep it aside as he ends up trusting himself more. The ruler’s family unit and members are significantly influenced by religious believes in that there is very little belief or absence of faith in the divine beings. This greatly resulted in significant damages inside their lives and that of their ancestors
Again as we go forward in the play, there is the constant appearance of the theme of visual deficiency and sight, which underlines the battle between the intensity of unhindered choices and the intensity of the authority of divine beings. This is made obvious during Oedipus’ encounter with Tiresias where he demands Tiresias to reveal to him and the chorus who the murderer of Laius is. This encounter between Oedipus, king of Thebes, and the visually damaged diviner, Tiresias makes a distinct difference between what ‘sight’ and ‘blindness’ are. Tiresias is physically visually weakened, however, it is suggested that he is the one amongst the two of them that can really and precisely see what lies beneath the misery and tragedy of the play. This is made obvious when Tiresias says to Oedipus that, “I say with those you love best you live in foulest shame unconsciously and do not see where you are n calamity”. In response to this, Oedipus goes on saying “It has, but not for you; it has no strength for you because you are blind in mind and ears as well as in your eyes” (Grene, 2010, p. 6). From these words, we understand that Tiresias tries to shine the light on Oedipus’ inability to realize his own truth and deeds. The use of the theme of blindness is to bring out Oedipus’ will to bear no belief in divine beings.
Jocasta, who is both Oedipus’ wife and mother, is a solid adherent to the prophet as she consulted them with her husband, Laius years before and were revealed the ill fate which their child if they ever have one, was destined to bear all his life. Nevertheless, it appears Jocasta’s starring role in the play is subject to Oedipus’ role as a protagonist and atheist. This is because as Oedipus hears of the death of his Corinthian father, Polybus, he has some peace on the inability of his fate to be fulfilled. On this note, she changes her perspectives and her beliefs depending on his responses to her from the things she says. It is intriguing to see her cast in such a customary female move of help to her spouse and king, however, to compare that with her personal role of a nonbeliever, we realize that she installs her lack of trust in the divine beings more deep into Oedipus’ mind. While he addresses the divine beings’ capacity and trusts himself to be invulnerable, since his father, Polybus, did not die by his hands as predicted by the Oracle, Jocasta comforts him more by saying “Do not concern yourself about this matter; listen to me and learn that human beings have no part in the craft of prophecy” (Grene, 2010, p. 11). By saying so, Jocasta downgrades the truthfulness of the words of the oracle of Apollo and as such, demonstrates a complete lack of faith in the gods.
On another hand, Sophocles shows to us, the readers of the play, that divinities can be hateful sometimes. We see this at different instances of the play, Sophocles presents to us the way the divinities can introduce themselves in a man’s life and ruin it. Upon reading the book, one might see Greek divinities just as Sophocles presents them in the play. Sophocles stigmatized the divine beings’ notoriety and brought down their reputation, making them look dangerous and detestable. It is realized that all divine beings ought to be impeccable and faultless, and ought to speak to equity and value, yet with Oedipus, the divine beings chose to devastate him and his family.
Looking at the nature of the unfortunate fate of Oedipus, we see that it came from his father King Laius. Laius exasperates the divine beings by disregarding the cordiality of King Pelops by abducting and assaulting Chrysippus, who turns out to be Pelops’ male child. That sends down a curse upon the Theban house, which regards no one other than Laius, his wife, Jocasta, and their future child (Collard & Cropp, 2009, p. 460). It was mainly a curse on Laius, that he will be murdered by his own child. Trying to gain more indebtedness on this story behind Oedipus’ misfortune, we tend to look at the background of the play Oedipus the King. Through this family’s background of disobedience and offenses, we realize that there are fewer evil gods and more just divinities as their character traits.
In conclusion, we see that one aspect of Oedipus’ life that contributes greatly to his downfall is the lack of belief in the authority of divine beings which entails his inability to see all the secrets and mysteries that surround his life from childhood till the time he is made king. There is a great absence and almost complete absence of faith in the divine beings right from Laius down to Oedipus and his mother and wife, Jocasta. This is simply seen as none of the three moved towards the gods to plead and ask for an act of kindness upon their family’s miserable fate. As well as Oedipus, his parents believed things will turn out to get better by themselves and do not involve divine intervention. This expresses the mindset of a typically skeptical person and in this case, a skeptical family.
Oedipus, who is known for his awareness and strength, is nevertheless unaware and along these lines thoughtless in regards to reality about himself and his past. However, when Teiresias uncovers Oedipus’ reality, he is ignored and called out as being a betrayer to the city. It is left to Oedipus to conquer his inability to realize his inability to see clearly, understand the reality in his life and acknowledge destiny. As a result of this, there is an improvement in Oedipus’ own character from a man who held little confidence in divinations to one who at long last recognizes the will and intensity of the authority of divine beings.
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