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Oedipus the King

Although the play Oedipus the King was written by Sophocles in the 5th century BC, it reflects human characteristics which are peculiar even to modern people. Certainly, all people are different. However, there exists something that unites all the people regardless of time and place they live in, age, nation, and worldview. In the tragedy, one can find the following characteristics, which are peculiar to all mankind: fear to face destiny, and as a result, desire to change it; curiosity, which can harm people, and selfishness, which is inherent in each person to some extent.

The first human trait mentioned, fear to face destiny, is the most important among all the listed above. The fact is that this very characteristic predetermined the tragic fate of Oedipus. People in ancient times believed their Gods different predictions and belief in fate were usual things for Roman and Greek people. However, these prophecies were not always good, and people who were told about such things as their death, death of their relatives, wars, disasters, or any other unhappiness in future tried to change their fate. When Oedipus hears about his destiny, he also tries to prevent the terrible events:

When I heard this, and ever since, I gauged

The way to Corinth by the stars alone,

Running to a place where I would never see

The disgrace in the oracles words come true (Gould 802)

However, people depend on some supernatural powers; fate is fate, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to change it. Modern people can be divided into two groups according to their attitude towards predictions. The first group are those who prefer to be unaware of what will happen in future, while the others are eager to know their fate. Certainly, in modern times, people hear predictions not from God but from other people, who are supposed to possess supernatural powers. It is great if prophecies are good, but if misfortunes are predicted to a person, he/she will hardly be able to accept the information as it is. Perhaps, the person will look for ways to change his/her life. Thus, it is evident that fear of destiny has been typical for all people since the beginning of its history.

Another trait which characterizes human nature is curiosity. One can agree that this trait is peculiar to people even without reading and citing literary works. It is enough to look at little children in order to understand it. They are interested in everything that surrounds them, and they want to know what, when, how, and why happens in the world. However, curiosity is not a trait typical for children only. Adults are also eager to know more than they do, especially when it refers to their lives. The example of Oedipus shows that curiosity is not always a good trait. In his case, it is combined with obstinacy:

JOCASTA: No, listen to me! Please! Dont do this thing!

OEDIPUS: I will not listen; I will search out the truth (Gould 1072)

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This mixture of traits makes the situation dangerous for Oedipus and his close people. However, he does not stop even when his wife asks him to do it. One can suppose that Oedipus behaves in such a way because of two reasons. First of all, curiosity is a stronger feeling than mere interest. The second reason is related to his obstinacy, which stems from third trait that characterizes humanity.

The third trait is selfishness. Undoubtedly, not all people are selfish. However, each person experiences a period of selfishness in his/her life, and this fact is proven by psychologists. It is common knowledge that children at the age of three are at the stage when they demand increased attention and when all their whims should be satisfied. As a rule, this period passes and does not appear again. However, some people are selfish, and this trait of character, which was determined by upbringing, surrounding, and other factors. The example of Oedipus shows that selfishness is not alien to people. Although, he says to his people:

...And yet, though you are sick,

There is not one of you as seek as I.

For your affliction comes to each alone,

For him and no one else, but my soul mourns

For me and for you, too, and for the city (Gould 60),

it does not mean that he is absolutely unselfish. Let us think why he leaves his native land, why he emphasizes his merits such as victory over the Sphinx, why he threatens to punish people who would not tell the truth. Obviously, he wants to be loved by his people, to look intelligent, honest and generous, and, at last, to be saved. However, in spite of selfishness, which appears in some of his actions, Oedipus is a really generous person, who condemns himself for his sin, and is not afraid to be punished for what he has done. It is necessary to mention that this trait of character courage to concede a mistake and to be punished for it is the only trait of Oedipus which is not universal.

The tragedy Oedipus the King by Sophocles, in spite of its ancient origin, can be regarded as one of vital importance even in modern times. Although, the plot of the play can hardly be called realistic and modern, it is still interesting and didactic. One can think about timeless values such as fate, possibility or impossibility to change it, human traits of character, responsibility for close people, and other things which every reader can find close to himself/herself. Thus, Oedipus the King is an example of ancient wisdom which will be important and influential even in future.

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