Literary devices in Oedipus
Character FlawIn literature, the tragic hero's error of judgment or inherent defect of character. The "fatal flaw." This, combined chance and other external forces, brings about a catastrophe Often the error or flaw results from nothing more than personal traits like pride and overconfidence, but can arise from any failure of the protagonist's action or knowledge ranging from a simple unwitting ness to a moral deficiency.
FlashbackJocasta flashes back to tell the story of Laius
SymbolsTriple Crossroad killed King Laius at a place where three roads meet, or a triple crossroad. Typically, crossroads symbolize a choice to be made. Yet because the murder of Laius occurred in the distant past. Oedipuss choice has already been made, and so the triple crossroads becomes a symbol not of choice but of fate.
Swollen anklesAs an adult, still limps from a childhood injury to his ankles. This limp, and his very namewhich means swollen ankle, and which was given to him because of a childhood ankle injuryare clues to his own identity that Oedipus fails to notice. As such, Oedipuss ankles become symbols of his fate. His ankles, literally, are the marks of that fate.
MotifsSight and blindness
The Three Unitiesunity of timeall the action in the play takes place during a single day. [Note: When characters recall events and actions that took place at an earlier time, unity of time still applies because the present moment is still a single dayrecalling or remembering is not the same as the actual action or event taking place.]unity of spacethe play must take place in a single locationin front of the palace at Thebes. [Note: Again, actions that are recalled that took place in other locations, e.g., the place where three roads meet, are still being recalled in front of the palace at Thebes.unity of actioneverything that takes place, occurs, or is described, relates to a central overarching idea. No subplots; no unrelated patterns of diction, imagery, etc.
Aristotle TragedyAristotle cites Oedipus constantly in his how-to manual for tragedy, Poetics. The play meets nearly all of the tragic criteria that Aristotle lays out in this famous book.
Tragic HeroCharacteristics of a tragic herogenerally highbornmust be goodmust aim at proprietyhave good intentionsmust be true to lifehumanmust be consistentexhibits tragic flaw or flaws, oftenhubrisexcessive prideterashnessexperiences a reversal or fallbrings about his own downfall (his prideful and/or rash actions lead to his downfall)evokes both pity and fear in audience/reader
Hamartia: tragic flawScholars have been arguing for centuries over an essential question: what is Oedipus's hamartia, often called a tragic flaw? Aristotle tells us in his Poetics that every tragic hero is supposed to have one of these, and that the hamartia is the thing that causes the hero's downfall. Aristotle also cites Oedipus as the best example ever of a tragic hero. Why then is it so unclear to generation after generation, just what Oedipus's hamartia ????????
HamartiaThe word hamartia comes from the Greek hamartanein, which means "missing the mark." The hero aims his arrow at the bull's eye, but ends up hitting something altogether unexpected. Oedipus is the perfect example of this. The target for Oedipus is finding Laius's murderer in order to save Thebes. He does achieve this, but unfortunately brings disaster on himself in the process. Oedipus aim's for the bull's eye but ends up hitting his own eyes instead.
Strophe and antistropheLike most all ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles divides his choral odes into strophe and antistrophe. Both sections had the same number of lines and metrical pattern. In Greek, strophe means "turn," and antistrophe means "turn back." This makes sense when you consider the fact that, during the strophe choruses danced from right to left and during the antistrophe they did the opposite. Sophocles may have split them into two groups, so that it was as if one part of the Chorus was conversing with the other. Perhaps the dualities created by strophe and antistrophe, represent the endless, irresolvable debates for which Greek tragedy is famous.
Oedipus ComplexThe Oedipus plays have had a wide-reaching influence and are particularly notable for inspiring Sigmund Freuds theory of the "Oedipus Complex," which describes a stage of psychological development in which a child sees their father as an adversarial competitor for his or her mothers attention (or in non-psychology speak, its the kill-the-father-sleep-with-the-mother complex).
TONEBecause this play doesn't have a narrator, the tone is profoundly shaped by the commentary of the Chorus. The Chorus expresses genuine sympathy for the situations of the characters, yet at the same time is acutely aware of the upcoming events.
The play also has great examples of some of Aristotle's favorite plot devices: peripeteia, anagnorisis, and catastrophe. Peripeteia means a reversal of intention or a turning point
Anagnorisis means a recognition. It's where the tragic hero suddenly realizes the terrible truth
peripeteia, anagnorisis, and catastrophePeripeteia means a reversal of intention or a turning point. In Oedipus this happens when the Messenger shows up from Corinth. The man tries to ease the King's mind by telling him that he's not really Polybos's son. Though the Messenger intends only good things with this information, it ends up being the thing that drives Oedipus toward his horrible fate. The wicked irony of this turning point makes it a pitch-perfect peripeteia. Anagnorisis means a recognition. It's where the tragic hero suddenly realizes the terrible truth. In Oedipus the King it happens when the combined testimonies of the Corinthian Messenger and the Theban Shepherd make Oedipus realize that he's unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy he's struggled to avoid. One of the things that makes Aristotle think the play is so great is that the anagnorisis is directly caused by the peripeteia. The words of the Messenger are what cause Oedipus to summon the Shepherd. The two plot devices are linked by a terrible but inevitable logic. Just as the peripeteia directly leads to the anagnorisis, the anagnorisis directly leads to the catastrophe, or the terrible suffering. When the truth is revealed, Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus stabs himself in the eyes, and begs to be banished. All these things add up to make Oedipus the King the gold standard of tragedy
Greek Theory of Tragedy: Aristotle's Poetics The classic discussion of Greek tragedy is Aristotle's Poetics. He defines tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself." He continues, "Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear. Its action should be single and complete, presenting a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments, and it should be written in poetry embellished with every kind of artistic expression." The writer presents "incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to interpret its catharsis of such of such emotions" (by catharsis, Aristotle means a purging or sweeping away of the pity and fear aroused by the tragic action). The basic difference Aristotle draws between tragedy and other genres, such as comedy and the epic, is the "tragic pleasure of pity and fear" the audience feel watching a tragedy. In order for the tragic hero to arouse these feelings in the audience, he cannot be either all good or all evil but must be someone the audience can identify with; however, if he is superior in some way(s), the tragic pleasure is intensified. His disastrous end results from a mistaken action, which in turn arises from a tragic flaw or from a tragic error in judgment. Often the tragic flaw is hubris, an excessive pride that causes the hero to ignore a divine warning or to break a moral law. It has been suggested that because the tragic hero's suffering is greater than his offense, the audience feels pity; because the audience members perceive that they could behave similarly, they feel pity.
Topic: Can we see and still be blind?
LITERARY DEVICESA simile: a comparison of two dissimilar things using "like" or "as", e.g., "my love is like a red, red rose" (Robert Burns). A metaphor: a comparison of two dissimilar things which does not use "like" or "as," e.g., "my love is a red, red rose" (Lilia Melani). Personification: treating abstractions or inanimate objects as human, that is, giving them human attributes, powers, or feelings, e.g., "nature wept" or "the wind whispered many truths to me." hyperbole: exaggeration, often extravagant; it may be used for serious or for comic effect. Apostrophe: a direct address to a person, thing, or abstraction, such as "O Western Wind," or "Ah, Sorrow, you consume us." Apostrophes are generally capitalized. Onomatopoeia: a word whose sounds seem to duplicate the sounds they describe--hiss, buzz, bang, murmur, meow, growl. Oxymoron: a statement with two parts which seem contradictory; examples: sad joy, a wise fool, the sound of silence, or Hamlet's saying, "I must be cruel only to be kind"
Deus ex machina deus ex machina literally "god from the machine") is a plot device in which a person or thing appears "out of the blue" to help a character to overcome a seemingly insolvable difficulty. It is generally considered to be poor storytelling technique.
Dramatic IronySophocles makes great use of dramatic irony in Oedipus Rex. We, as the audience, know quite a bit about Oedipus that he does not know.