The Sins of Œdipus

Upon Œdipus’s self-imposed exile from Thebes for being the reason the city held a divine curse (on account of his marriage—unwittingly—to his mother Iocaste), his sons fight a civil war (Œdipus at Collonus) to determine who will rule Thebes. The result is that both sons kill each other by each other’s hand in battle. Creon becomes king (Antigone) and refuses burial of the rebellious son, and orders that anyone who would bury him to be executed. Antigone, the sister of the brothers, assisted by their sister Ismene, buries the body. Creon initially orders her imprisonment and execution. He vacillated at this decision but too late as Antigone and Ismene committed suicide to highlight Creon’s unjust actions.

Analyze how much of this is the result of Œdipus and why this is the result. Is it the result of Œdipus’ union with his mother? Or is it his curiosity (See Œdipus Rex)? In these plays, do the children suffer from the father’s sins, or are they the authors of their own tragedy? Bear in mind that the mindset of Ancient Greece held that any wrongdoing any person committed was under strict liability (intent does not matter; the act itself is good or evil). What kind of critique, if any, does the author Sophocles (a citizen of the Athenian Republic, which held the heart of Hellenic democracy) make of the rule of kings. Could this be a critique on the rule of the Spartans (Athens’s historic rival; a monarchy)?

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