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Commentary on a Speech by Oedipus from Oedipus Rex.

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Introduction

The Words of a Tragic Hero: Commentary on a Speech by Oedipus from Oedipus Rex "For I, [. . .] Oedipus, noblest of all the line / of Kadmos, have condemned myself to enjoy / these things no more," laments Oedipus in utter despair at the end of the play Oedipus Rex, the first of the trilogy by Sophocles (13-16. Appendix). Oedipus blinds himself upon the discovery of himself as the murderer of his father and of Iocaste's death. Yet, in midst of intense pain he is able to compose himself, and delivers one of the most moving speeches in the play. In a fifty-four-line speech in �xodos, Oedipus reflects on the fateful events in his life leading to the catastrophe and justifies his action of self-blinding. The themes, subtle motifs, vivid imagery, careful diction and effective structure of the speech are ingenious touches that complete Oedipus's portrayal as a tragic hero. Although the chosen passage is a translation from Greek to English, the translators "found the best English equivalent in a literalness which extended to the texture and rhythm of the Greek phrasing [. ...read more.

Middle

Oedipus addresses to each place in second person and personifies them. In these sections, Oedipus reaches his point of emotional climax in the speech, therefore rhetorical questions and exclamations are frequent. Beginning with Kithairon, the place his parents abandoned him, Oedipus asks a series of rhetorical questions bitterly emphasized by the anaphora in lines 28 and 29. With excruciatingly painful tone, he moves on to address Corinth. The juxtaposition of "fair" (32) with "evil" (33) and "cancerous" (34), and the realization that he is not the child of Polybos mark Oedipus's disillusionment of his past. Finally, Oedipus addresses the symbolic crossroads where the fateful murder of La�os took place. Oedipus directly confronts the crossroads, "can you remember / the unspeakable things I did there, and the things / I went on from there to do?" and in turn, confronts himself (39-41). The beastly and graphic personification of the roads drinking his father's blood places the crossroads in an active position in the killing of La�os. The crossroads in such context no longer stand for the freedom of choice but the power of fate and prophecy. Crying out "thrice miserable!" Oedipus once again alludes to the misfortune brought upon him at the three crossroads (14). ...read more.

Conclusion

Fate is compared to a lethal illness lurking inside him. Oedipus thus takes up the play's pervasive imagery of disease, laden with the pollution and impurity of the community. His expulsion then, is the act of purification. The last sentence is heartbreaking and a powerful tool for the exhibition of pathos on the part of Oedipus, as he calmly says, "Of all men, I alone can bear this guilt" (54). Oedipus once again demonstrates heroism in his willingness to readily accept his role as the source of pollution, and arguably the scapegoat. In his first formal speech since the revelation of his identity, Oedipus postures himself as a typical Greek tragic hero who mercilessly judges and punishes himself. He reviews his eventful life vividly with bitter emotions. Sophocles's careful use of symbols, diction and form of the speech complement each other successfully in portraying a fallen hero that evokes deep sympathy and admiration from the reader. In recognition of his contradictory values as both a great king and a sinful murderer of his own father, Oedipus exhibits ambivalent and overwhelming emotions. By showing Oedipus in a vulnerable, yet still stately light in �xodos, Sophocles brings the depth of Oedipus's character to the surface. ...read more.

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