Aristotle's Poetics

Oedipus the King as Interpreted by Sophocles, Aristotle and Sigmund Freud

Considered by many as the greatest of classic Greek tragedies, Oedipus the King ("Oedipus Tyrannus") by Sophocles (495?--406 B.C.E) is set in the remoteness of ancient Greece and has come down to us in the form of a tragic myth allegedly inspired by true events and actual characters. Yet to the people of ancient Athens, Oedipus the King represented "figures who fell into disaster from positions of power and prestige," and as human beings "became susceptible to a lethal mixture of error, ignorance and violent arrogance" (Martin 134). The Greek philosopher Aristotle referred to this play continually in his Poetics, pointing out features of the ideal tragic poem, and in the later years of the 19th century, Sigmund Freud adapted this myth as the basis for one of his most controversial psychoanalytic interpretations, being the "Oedipal Complex."

The Sopholcean interpretation of the myth of King Oedipus of Thebes seems to lie within the horror and fascination of the unspeakable that rests at the heart of the play. When Oedipus emerges from his palace in the final scene of the play, he is blind; his mask is stained by the blood of his father King Laius; he has committed incest with his own...

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