“Sophocles I” by Sophocles

Oedipus and the Sphinx

The Theban Plays by Sophocles (aka the Oedipus Cycle) consist of three plays: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone.

Oedipus was a King of Thebes in Greek mythology who was prophesied by Apollo to kill his father and marry his mother unwittingly, based on whose story Freud developed the concept “Oedipus Complex”. The main theme of Sophocles’ plays, however, is not patricide nor incest, but the tragic lack of self-knowledge, impetuous rage and self-destructive injustice of man exemplified by Oedipus (and Creon to a lesser extent), both as an individual in relation to himself and his family members, and as a ruler of state in relation to his subjects.

Quotes:

“To throw away an honest friend is, as it were, to throw your life away, which a man loves the best. In time you will know all with certainty; time is the only test of honest men, one day is space enough to know a rogue.”

“But I count myself a child of Fortune, beneficent Fortune, and I shall not be dishonored. She’s the mother from whom I spring; the months, my brothers, marked me, now as small, and now again as mighty. Such is my breeding, and I shall never prove so false to it, as not to find the secret of my birth.”

If I had sight, I know not with what eyes I could even have looked on my father, when I came to the house of Hades, or on my miserable mother, since against both I have sinned such sins as hanging myself could not punish. But do you think that the sight of children, born as mine were, was lovely for me to look upon? No, no, never lovely to my eyes! No, neither was this town with its towering walls, nor the sacred statues of the gods, since I, thrice wretched that I am— I, noblest of the sons of Thebes—have doomed myself to know them no more by commanding that all should reject the impious one, the one whom the gods have revealed as unholy, a member of Laius’ own race! After bearing such a stain upon myself, was I to look with steady eyes on this folk? No indeed: were there a way to choke the source of hearing, I would not have hesitated to make a fast prison of this wretched frame, so that I should have known neither sight nor sound.

The Plague of Thebes

“Nothing very great comes to the life of mortal man without ruin to accompany it. For Hope, widely wandering, comes to many of mankind as a blessing, but to many as the deceiver, using light-minded lusts; she comes to him that knows nothing till he burns his foot in the glowing fire. With wisdom has someone declared a word of distinction: that evil seems good to one whose mind the gods lead to ruin, and but for the briefest moment of time is his life outside of calamity.”

References:

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