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Oedipus Rex and Antigone. A formal review using literary elements. Character Analysis : Oedipus. At the start of the play he is hugely confident and proudly bears his name– he has saved Thebes from the sphinx and has become king overnight

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oedipus rex and antigone

Oedipus Rex and Antigone

A formal review using literary elements

character analysis oedipus
Character Analysis: Oedipus
  • At the start of the play he is hugely confident and proudly bears his name– he has saved Thebes from the sphinx and has become king overnight
  • His confidence and pride continues when he interrogates Creon, Teiresias, the messenger, and shepherd – after he stabs out his eyes he demands to be exiled
C) He is constantly in motion – trying to keep up with his fate but it is always out of his reach

D) By the end of the play his name has become a curse – he is ashamed of himself and his actions (shows he is a DYNAMIC CHARACTER) – this curse passes on to his children as shown when his two sons and daughters meet their fate

  • He represents the real power of human law and for human need for an orderly, stable society
  • When he returned to Thebes with news from the oracle he suggested that Oedipus hear it indoors – shows he is a secretive politician
C) Although sounding sympathetic to Oedipus in the final scene, he is eager to have Oedipus separated from his children and grants his request for exile – shows that Creon really does desire to be king

D) In Antigone, Creon believes he is in a comfortable place of power.

E) Once Creon achieves stability and power he begins to make the same mistakes Oedipus did (shows he is a Dynamic Character); Creon also realizes his mistakes and tries to fix them but he is too late
  • Because of her acute awareness of her history, Anitgone is more dangerous than Oedipus, especially to Creon
  • Due to the fate her family has experienced, Antigone feels she has nothing to lose
  • She draws attention to the contrast between divine law and human law
D) She casts doubt on Creon’s authority – she points out his laws cannot override the will of the gods or the traditions of men

E) She places Creon’s laws against Polyneices burial in a way that makes the law seem shameful and ridiculous

F) When she is sentenced to death, she is happy she will be reunited with her family – shows she is desperate to maintain her family connections even in death

major conflict
Major Conflict
  • Antigone – Man vs. Man (Creon vs. Antigone) Creon has declared that Polyneices shall not be given a proper burial because he led the attack on Thebes, Antigone wants to give her brother a proper burial anyway (she follows her beliefs)
B) Oedipus Rex – Man vs. Man or Man vs. Himself (Oedipus vs. Teiresias or Oedipus vs. himself) – When Teiresias tells Oedipus that he is the cause of the plague, Oedipus refuses to believe him; hence why Oedipus investigates deeper into the prophecy and his fate
rising action
Rising Action
  • Oedipus Rex – occurs when Creon returns from the oracle with the news that the plague will end when the murderer of Laius is discovered and exiled
  • Antigone – When Antigone decides to go against Creon’s orders and bury her brother
  • Oedipus Rex – When Oedipus learns, unexpectedly, that he is the man responsible for the plague in Thebes – he is the man that killed his father and married his mother
  • Antigone – When Creon, tragically too late, decides to pardon Antigone for defying his orders and buries her brother
falling action
Falling Action

A) Oedipus Rex – The consequences of Oedipus learning the truth (he killed his father and married his mother) – this causes Jocasta to hang herself, Oedipus to blind himself, and Creon to grant Oedipus’ request of banishment

B) Antigone – occurs when Creon decides to free her from her tomblike prison. Creon arrives too late to find Antigone has hanged her herself. Haemon, Antigone’s fiancée, attempts to kill Creon and fails; he then kills himself. Creon’s wife, Eurydice, stabs herself.
  • Oedipus Rex – Oedipus’ name literally means “swollen foot,” this foreshadows his discovery of his own identity
  • In both plays, Teiresias announces the fate of both Oedipus and Creon and is ignored by both men – this foreshadows the revelation that inspires Oedipus to blind himself (in Oedipus Rex)

A) Oedipus’ “Swollen Foot” – Oedipus gets his name from the fact that he was left on the mountainside with his ankles pinned together; the injury leaves Oedipus with an injury that symbolizes the way in which fate has marked him and set him apart. It also symbolizes how his movements have been restricted since birth by Apollo’s prophecy

b three way crossroads
B) Three – Way Crossroads
  • Jocasta said that Laius was killed at a place where three roads meet; This place symbolizes the moment Oedipus began to fulfill the prophecy.
  • Crossroads is also a place where choices have to be made (the choice Oedipus made); it symbolizes fate and the power of prophecy rather than freedom and choice
c antigone s entombment
C) Antigone’s Entombment
  • Creon sentences Antigone to be buried alive inside a dark tomb; Her imprisonment symbolizes that her loyalties and feelings lie with the dead instead of with the living.
  • It also symbolizes Creon’s lack of judgment and his insult to the gods (defying them by showing his control over Thebes (this is the gods territory!)

Motifs are recurring structures or events that help inform the reader of the story’s themes

1) Violence against oneself – Almost every character that dies in both plays is at their own hand – Jocasta and Antigone hang themselves, Haemon and Eurydice both stab themselves, Oedipus inflicts violence on himself when he stabs out his eyes

b sight and blindness
B) Sight and Blindness

1) Clear vision is used as a metaphor for knowledge and insight

2) Oedipus is famous for his quick comprehension and insight when he defeated the sphinx

3) Oedipus is blind to the truth for many years, but then blinds himself so he won’t have to look upon his own children

4) Creon experiences the same type of blindness to truth in Antigone.

5) Tieresias is a blind prophet; he can see the truth and into the future

c graves and tombs
C) Graves and Tombs
  • The plot of Antigone revolves around the idea of proper burials (Antigone wanting to give Polyneices a proper burial so his soul will find peace)
  • Polyneices’ unburied body is left unburied for all to see and is fed upon by dogs; this offends the gods
  • Antigone is entombed alive due to her defiance
3) In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus cannot be buried in the city of Thebes because his presence there is the cause of the plague and the sight of him insults the gods (reminder: incest was a sin against the gods!)

A) Excessive Pride – In Antigone Creon shows pride when he establishes a law that goes against religious principles (no man can create a law that is equal to the laws of the gods). When Tieresias tells Creon of his fate, Creon refuses to believe this; thus Creon must suffer the loss of his family

b the position of women
B) The Position of Women
  • Antigone’s gender has major effects on the meaning of her actions. Her gender makes Creon more intent upon defeating her; her rebellion upsets the view of gender roles and hierarchy in Greece. By refusing to submit to Creon she overturns the rules of her culture.
  • Ismene is her foil because she believes the complete opposite of Antigone – she thinks men are stronger and, therefore, must be obeyed
c the threat of tyranny
C) The Threat of Tyranny
  • The people of Athens and Thebes were very sensitive to the line between a strong leader and a brutal tyrant.
  • Creon abuses his power when he makes a law that goes against the will of the gods
  • Creon does have good intentions; he is loyal to his country but he makes poor judgments
4) As the play continues, Creon is shown to care more about the value of law rather than the good of the people

5) When Creon is given a choice to choose his law or the law of the gods, he chooses his own

d the power of unwritten law
D) The Power of Unwritten Law
  • Creon demands that Polyneices’ body be left unburied and to rot in the sun; Creon thinks he has justified this treatment because Polyneices is a traitor
  • The duty to bury the dead is part of what it means to be human, not part of what it means to be a citizen
  • Moral duties make up the body of unwritten law and tradition – the very laws Antigone abides by
e the willingness to ignore the truth
E) The willingness to ignore the truth
  • In Oedipus Rex, both Jocasta and Oedipus believe the servant’s story as meaningless
  • Neither can face the possibility of the servant being right
  • This is why Jocasta tells Oedipus of the prophecy made about her son and Oedipus tells of his own prophecy – neither acknowledge the similarity in both prophecies
4) The dramatic irony emphasizes how Jocasta and Oedipus don’t want to speak the truth; they look at the circumstances and pretend not to see what’s really there
f the impact of fate
F) The impact of fate
  • It’s harsh to say Oedipus was “blind” when it seems that he had no choice in fulfilling the prophecy (His parents put him on his path when they abandoned him on the mountainside)
  • Oedipus has a desire to flee his fate, but it continually catches up with him
3) It’s possible Oedipus’ story is meant to show that error and tragedy can happen to anyone, that human beings are powerless before fate or the gods, that the caution of disaster is the correct attitude for life (Oedipus thought he was free of the prophecy and did not worry it might come true)