Critical Lens Essay Oedipus The King

Psychoanalysis Analysis - Oedipus the King by Sophocles


Remember Oedipus? The king who unknowingly married his mother, Jocasta, after having unknowingly murdered his father?

So many scary accidental deaths in Oedipus the King.

Anyway, yeah, you know Oedipus. After he committed these crimes, he then blinded himself and went into exile in order to serve himself up some justice.

Then Freud got wind of him. And this poor guy's story was so central to psychoanalysis that Freud made his name into an adjective, "Oedipal." He also used it to name the most important of all the psychoanalytic complexes: the infamous "Oedipus Complex."

The caricatured version of the "Oedipus Complex" goes something like this: every man wants to marry his mother and murder his father. (Women are sometimes said to suffer from an "Electra Complex." But that was, for the unenlightened and sometimes outright misogynist Freud, another story.)

Of course, there's an element of truth to that caricature—it does get at something essential about the Freudian account of infantile development and adult conflict. But it drastically simplifies what, in Freud's founding formulation, is a very complex complex.

For Freud, Sophocles' tragedy shows the strength of unconscious forces in human life. What Freud added to the classical reception of the play was a sense of just how generalizable this story was.

Just because Oedipus's crimes look larger than life doesn't mean that they're not true to life. As in, a part of everyday, modern life. We are all propelled by forces that remain unseen—unless, we undertake the urgently necessary work of psychoanalysis.

Working to understand the unconscious, and our repressed desires, is the only thing that can help us avert repeated tragedy. But it's no guarantee. Freud always warned that no matter how hard we work to understand ourselves and our society, a happy ending can never be ensured.

We guess Sophocles wasn't the only one with a pretty tragic worldview…


[Teiresias, addressing Oedipus:] I say that with those you love best
You live in foulest shame unconsciously
And do not see where you are in calamity.


Ouch. David Greene's translation of these lines helps us to see just how much the Sophoclean scenario anticipated psychoanalysis. Clearly, so much of Freud's science is modeled on this tragedy.

Ah, it's nice to once again appreciate the literariness of psychoanalysis. Good old Dr. Freud was nothing if not learned.

Anywho. The prophet Teiresias predicts Oedipus's downfall here by claiming that the king, still on the throne at this moment in the play, "live[s] in foulest shame unconsciously." So his problem is that he's got no awareness of what he's doing.

And what was he doing? Totally violating his society's most primal and powerful taboo. (That's the incest taboo, FYI.)

It's supposed to be ironic, of course, that while Oedipus is still sighted he "[does] not see" the truth of his situation. And later, when he blinds himself? That's because he does finally see that awful truth.

Note how these lines are actually positioning Oedipus as a victim—as someone not totally responsible for his actions. He has done all that he has done unknowingly. "Unconsciously." He's at the whim of fate.

But the play's lesson is that fate is not always kind enough to make sure we're clued into what we're doing. We can and often must be made to pay for crimes committed while we weren't looking. Well, really, while we weren't seeing.

What's saddest about this whole storyline, we think, is actually the way that fate separates Oedipus from "those [he loves] best." The king's love is no less true for being foul, and yet this love will not be spared from the "calamity" that's fast approaching Thebes.

Hug your loved ones, Shmoopers. Life is hard sometimes. Our unconscious minds are always stuck up there in our heads, working against us in unpredictable ways.

or in case of academic writing is related to literature, writing a critical analysis is mandatory. For young scholars, writing an appropriate analysis is a compulsory assignment to achieve good grades.

A Concise Literary Analysis for Oedipus the King

The Narration of Oedipus the King

This article is about a literary criticism for Oedipus the King. Oedipus the King is a narration depicting how we take our lifetime journeys depending on our choices. Our decisions are always based on our choices which form our destinies in a long run.

Moreover, our choices related to our beliefs, views and general knowledge about things as what is right or what is wrong are all important to form decisions. Same occurs in Oedipus the King which is a narration about Oedipus’ fate, his journey for self identification and his determination for a change.

Literary Criticism Oedipus Rex

Oedipus the King was introduced by Sophocles in which the writer introduced the triumphs of Oedipus. Oedipus was the king of Thebes. He was not only powerful but very famous for his intelligence. In 1300, the inhabitants of Thebes were falling the prey to plague. They made prayers in the royal house to protect their cities.

Oedipus Rex heard the cries of the people while offering his prayers in the royal house. He became so depressed because of the distressful condition in Thebes. He was worried as cattle and crops were being damaged. Women and infant mortality rate was increasing because of the widespread disease.

The most devastating condition happened when people of Thebes started dying with plague. So, there was nothing left behind for him to rule. He viewed all the suffering of his people and asked Creon to beg Apollo to restore the peace of his countrymen. Apollo was the goddess of peace.

The Message of Creon in Oedipus the King

When Creon returned, he gave the message of Apollo that the present king must drive out corruption from land of Thebes. Crean further mentioned that the murderer of past king, Laius, was still residing in Thebes.

He further disclosed the fact that a close person of the past king was involved in the murder that later put on the burden on a band of thieves. Oedipus the king clearly questioned for the reasons behind lack of investigation that had happened in the inquiry process of the royal death.

As things revealed, Oedipus called the citizens to come forward with any valuable information regarding the murder. However, there was complete silence to his appeal for revealing the truth. Oedipus resulted in anger. He asked Creaon to leave the country as he became unsuccessful bringing forward the final investigation.

He terminated the top brass who was not truly interested carrying out investigation. Finally, with devotion and his personal will, he became successful in solving that puzzle of Laius’ murder. The son of the past king was involved in that royal murder.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *