The Problems Of An Unknown Identity English Literature Essay

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As one knows man with power is not always successful until they know their inner self. Sophocles' story of King Oedipus is regarded as a masterpiece in the greatest of all Greek tragedies. He portrays Oedipus as the king of Thebes who is proud, prosperous, and powerful. His journey in this play moves Oedipus from the quest for a cure from the plague to a search for his own identity. As the play progresses Oedipus is brought upon several clues that show him that the problems in his life are all due to his unknown identity. Oedipus' unknown identity causes him to be damned three times. It also causes him to become emotionally unstable and hurt not only himself but others. Along with emotional and physical effects, an unidentified identity becomes the reason to the downfall of Oedipus's. The fact that Oedipus remains ignorant of his own identity, in spite of his sight, is a warning to his downfall. In search of his identity, Oedipus's unknown identity becomes the obstacle that harms his life because he takes part in activities that harm is reputation.

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Oedipus' unknown identity led him to enforce sinful deeds upon his life that the people of Thebes and him are unfamiliar with until the end of the play. Oedipus is first sinful in shedding blood of an old man. In the play Oedipus, Oedipus tells Jocasta:

"...So, without my parents' knowledge, I went to Pytho;/ but came back disappointed of any answer/ To the question I asked, having head instead a tale/ Of horror and misery: how I must marry my mother, And become the parent of a misbegotten brood,/ An offence to all mankind - and kill my father./At this I fled away... When I came to the place where three roads join,... The leader roughly ordered me out of the way;...And every man of them I killed. (pg 47, 789-815)"

Oedipus had killed an old man that was about to kill him out of self-defence. As little as he knew, Polybus and Merope were not his parents and the man he killed was his father and the original king of Thebes. He was labelled sinful in murder and became the reason to why his city suffered from a curse and starvation. As a result, his unknown identity caused him be hated because he snatched the roof off several people. Furthermore, Oedipus was also sinful in marriage. In a conversation with the Messenger, Oedipus says, "Loxias said I was foredoomed to make my mother [, Queen Merope] my wife.... (pg 53, 996)" He had thought that he was destined to marry his mother Merope as the prophecy stated. He was kept away from the fact that he was Jocasta's son, which allowed him to marry Jocasta. However, this marriage turned out to be unethical within Greek, harming the reputation of Jocasta and Oedipus. Along with being sinful in marrying his mother, he was sinful in having kids with his mother. Oedipus was aware of this sin when he explains to the people of Thebes, "Cithaeron! Foster-mother! Did you shelter me/ For this? Could you not let me die that instant,/ Instead of saving me to tell the world/How I was got?... My blood - will they remember what they saw,/ And what I came that way to Thebes to do?/ Incestuous sin! Breeding where I was bred! (pg 64, 1390-1404)" Oedipus's unknown identity makes him hate himself for coming to Thebes and now he wonders what to call his children. His unknown identity makes him commit a crime of having incest with his mother and leaving his daughters/sisters in a place where no one will marry them. Oedipus's lack of knowledge towards his identity makes him complete these hideous deeds that question his character.

Moreover, Oedipus' unknown identity destroys the trust between people and himself leading to negative consequences. His unknown identity gives him too much fame that in the end all he is left with is shame. There was once when the Priests told Oedipus, "... great and glorious, we seek/ Your help again. Find some deliverance for us/ By any way that good or man can show./ We know that experience of trials past gives strength/ To present counsel. Therefore, O greatest of men,/ Restore our city to life. Have a care for your fame... (pg 26, 38-43)" As presented in this situation the people of Thebes had no idea that Oedipus was responsible for their plague and famine. However, as Oedipus; unknown identity is revealed the people of Thebes advise Oedipus that "It would have been better to die than live in blindness. (pg 63, 1370)" Oedipus' lack of knowledge towards his identity makes him lose power and trust over Thebes, he is hated by god and no one wishes to see him in public. Furthermore, his unknown identity causes him to lose faith within himself. This is seen when Oedipus "... snatched out [the golden brooches]/And thrust, from full arm's length, into his eyes - / Eyes that should see no longer his shame, his guilt,/ No longer see those they should never have seen,/Nor see, unseeing, those he had longed to see.... (pg 61, 1268 - 1272)" Oedipus's unknown identity is finally clear as glass and this causes him to blind himself brutally because his eyes gave him nothing but betrayal. Moreover, Oedipus' unknown identity makes him become a wreck. This can be examined when Oedipus with his arms around his children cries to Creon, "No! Never take them from me! (pg 68, 1526)" Oedipus' identity once again has given Oedipus a punishment. Unfortunately, he was destined to live afar from his children because he cannot be trusted with anyone's life. Oedipus' unknown identity back stabs him again and his relationship between people becomes weaker and weaker.

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Furthermore, Oedipus's central problem causes him to lack proper communication skills and lose his connections with people in the city of Thebes. Oedipus becomes very aggressive and harsh towards Creon because he felt his identity was being questioned. He sarcastically asks Creon, "Well, sir? What brings you here?/ Have you the face to stand before my door,/proved plotter against my life, thief of my crown. (pg 40, 532-635)" Oedipus believed that Creon was out to get the position of the king and framed him of being the actual murder. Once again Oedipus' lack of knowledge towards his identity has made him "believe" he is being framed. His identity caused him to face shame towards Creon and made Creon his enemy. Another instance in the play where Oedipus goes ballistic was when he talked to Jocasta as if she were a maid in his palace. As Jocasta is about to leave Episode three, Oedipus told her, "Nonsense. I must pursue the trail to the end,/ Till I have unravelled the mystery of my birth/... There is nothing to fear. Though I be proved slave - born/ to the third generation, your honour is not impugned. (pg 55, 1052-1058)" Oedipus' challenge was to find out his true identity. Therefore, he began to state that Jocasta was being a selfish person. His unknown identity troubles him to discover who he really was, leaving him to face Jocasta's death. In addition, Oedipus suspected Teiresia's insight and blindness to be false. He mocked Teiresia's by using cruel language. He told him, "It has - but not for you; no not for you,/ shameless and brainless, sightless, senseless sot! (pg 36, 372 - 373)" Oedipus's identity has made him deny the truth Teiresia's presented him with. He became rude and again began to think that he was above all because he could see. Therefore, his unidentified identity led him to obtain aggressive communication skills.

The fear that Oedipus's unknown identity can do something so horrendous that there was no way to make things right again led him to harm many including himself. He is destined to fulfill sinful deeds. He also loses the trust of people when he realized that his unknown identity has brought him nothing but doom. Oedipus, as everyone knows loved the people he spoke with, but when in search for the cure to the plague and his identity he spoke violently to people that play an important role in his life. Overall, Oedipus' unknown identity is his central problem because that is what led him to his failure.