Sophocles' Themes in Antigone and Oedipus Rex

Sophocles used his plays to encourage Athenians to take responsibility for their own actions. In the fifth century B.C., Greece was experiencing an era of military exploration, political turmoil and social revolution, including women’s empowerment. Sophocles included all of these elements in plays, especially in Oedipus Rex and Antigone. Despite his upper class upbringing, Sophocles became a kind of “man of the people” who was very concerned with social matters. For this reason, Sophocles created heroes unlike those of earlier mythology and used their flaws to emphasize the importance of personal accountability.

Oedipus’ pride is the first example of the flawed hero. He refuses to recognize the signs of the prophecy that foretold he would kill his father and marry his mother; at the same time, he is eager to uncover the truth. As more and more evidence is presented to him in favor of the prophecy, he tries to find a way around it and calls another witness. Referring to a slave that he wants to question, he tells Jocasta: “There may be things, my wife, that I have said best left unsaid, which makes me want him here” (Sophocles 43).

Through this dialogue, one can tell that Oedipus is suppressing the knowledge that the prophecy is...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 721 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4145 literature essays, 1393 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in