The Character Sketch of Oedipus

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The Play Portrays Oedipus as a Self-Assured Man

The play portrays Oedipus as a self-assured man. His trust is shown by his ability to save his people from the Sphinx curse and ascend to the throne. He talks of his name as if it were a charm. In lines 7-9, he refers to his name, Oedipus, and his renown, which has spread far and wide as a result of his accomplishments. Unfortunately, the play ends with his name being despised and hated by all of those who adored him, as seen in line 238 where the chief of the Chorus is frightened of Oedipus' speech (Sommerstein, 2011).

The Character is Portrayed as a Strong Dictator

The character is portrayed as a strong dictator. In the play, he is portrayed as a caring leader who really cares for his people. During the plague, he takes a swift decision before his countrymen come to him for help. He sends Creon to the oracle to seek advice on how to handle the crisis. He shares their pain and acknowledges that he suffers too, seeing his people endure the plague, "And while you suffer, none suffers more than I" (lines 51-53). Furthermore, as a loving man, Oedipus longs to be home with his family and his people. In line 93, he says that he wishes to return home. His conversations with King Alcinous show his love for his homeland and the desire to go back there.

Oedipus' Swiftness and Confidence

By sending Creon to seek advice on the plague, Oedipus is swift. He takes immediate actions when confronted with a challenge. His actions such as interrogation of Creon, threatening to expel Tiresias and Creon among others symbolize his swiftness to act, which can, however, be argued to make him a rash character, acting impulsively. He kills a band of travelers who threaten his life.

The Waning of Swiftness and Confidence in Oedipus at Colonus

The swiftness and confidence wane in Oedipus at Colonus. At this point, Oedipus is merely a helpless man resigned to fate. He relies on other people to act and help him. Between lines 825-960, he depends on Theseus to protect his children from Creon, which is in contrast with the boisterous, swift-acting and confident Oedipus character in Oedipus the King.

Oedipus' Determination

As a determined character, Oedipus is focused on finding Laius' murderer. Although it results in his learning of the bitter truth, it is a cost he had to make. His determination is evident in lines 1077-1086 where he says that whatever came his way, he would find out the truth about his identity and nothing could change that (Sommerstein, 2011). When Creon informs him of the oracle's advice to banish the murderer from the city, Oedipus is determined to do exactly that; to save his people from the plague, a character that is admirable to literary readers.

Oedipus' Anger and Bad Temper

As an angry and bad-tempered man, Oedipus kills his father, King Laius. Although he was provoked into the rage when the group of travelers attacked him, it is only through his extreme anger that he unknowingly kills his father. In lines 380-404, he lashes out at Creon and Tiresias for lousy news and scheming to oust him, though he trusted them (Sommerstein, 2011).

Oedipus' Pride and Strong Personality

Oedipus is also a proud man for saving Thebes. Also, he doubts the Oracle's prophecy that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother. Running away from this fate made him do the exact things he was running away from.

Oedipus is a strong character. Although he made mistakes, it was still human of him. His love for the people, wife, and home are characteristic of a strong personality. Moreover, he defends himself against threats.


Sommerstein, A. (2011). ONCE MORE THE END OF SOPHOCLES' OEDIPUS TYRANNUS. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 131, 85-93.

December 15, 2022

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