Oedipus as Protagonist and Antagonist Essay

571 WordsOct 16, 20123 Pages
Oedipus as Protagonist and Antagonist If, in literature, the protagonist is the moving force in a work and the antagonist is the opposing force, then in Oedipus Rex, Oedipus serves as both. Oedipus, as the king of Thebes, desires to discover the murderer of Laïos and banish him from the city. However, Oedipus is himself the man he seeks. It is Oedipus’ desire for self-preservation and his ignorance of his own deeds that prevents him from reaching this goal. The curse on Thebes serves as the conflict in the story. Oedipus plays the force moving to resolve the conflict by seeking the late king’s killer. He learns early on how to lift the curse, but is unable to because of his failure to realize that he is the murderer of Laïos. He is the force that opposes the protagonist’s motion in that it is his inability to accept guilt and his ignorance of this guilt that delays the removal of the curse. In addition, Oedipus’ role as the antagonist is concretized by his having caused the conflict: he is guilty of the murder of Laïos and is therefore the bringer of the curse. Oedipus is earnest in his search for the man who caused the curse. He pursues knowledge from many sources including the oracle at Delphi, the seer Teiresias, a man who was with Laios when he died, and a messenger from Corinth. He also insists on the assistance of the people of Thebes, placing a curse on any man that withholds information concerning the murder of Laios. When Oedipus speaks with Teiresias, as when he speaks with the shepherd, he is forceful in gaining his knowledge. To Teiresias, he says, “What a wicked old man you are! You’d try a stone’s patience! Out with it! Have you no feeling at all?” (18). He goes on in this manner, growing more angry and indignant until the truth is revealed. In the case of Teiresias, when the identity of the murderer is

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