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The Oedipus Plays of SophoclesPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Paul Woodruff

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190669447

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190669447.001.0001

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Gods, Fate, and the Character of Oedipus

Gods, Fate, and the Character of Oedipus

Chapter:
(p.125) Chapter 5 Gods, Fate, and the Character of Oedipus
Source:
The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles
Author(s):

Paul Woodruff

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190669447.003.0006

In both plays, character drives the actions that are represented or reported on stage. Although Oedipus and his family are living through a fate allotted to them by the gods, they show genuine agency in their actions. The only stage action that calls for a supernatural explanation is the miracle at the end of Oedipus at Colonus, when Oedipus seems to understand the voice of Zeus in the sound of thunder. Otherwise, all the actions can be explained in terms of the character qualities of the agents. Oedipus’s character is a blend of qualities that not only explain his actions but render him attractively human. The blend is unique: Sophocles shows us an Oedipus who is an individual, not a type. Power figures who are impetuous, prone to anger, and self-absorbed may be a familiar type, but Oedipus’s rampant curiosity makes him unique.

Keywords:   Oedipus, character, agency, deus ex machina, Sophocles, choice, everyman, prophecy, oracle, responsibility

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