Plague and Disease in “Oedipus the King”


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Essay #: 055717
Total text length is 6,017 characters (approximately 4.1 pages).

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The beginning:
Plague and Disease in "Oedipus the King"
In the classical Greek tragedy Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, references to plague and disease occur repeatedly throughout the text. This essay will explore the complex ways in which Sophocles uses references to plague and disease in his tragedy. The thesis will be argued that this single dramatic idea or conceptualization of plague/disease operates on several distinct levels of resonance in the play. As will be seen, while on the literal level the Theban plague functions as a narrative engine in the play, as the need to end the plague propels the actions of the characters towards the play’s tragic climax, on a metaphorical level it reflects the moral contagion associated with Oedipus. This being...
The end:
..... that is destroying Thebes. In this he is telling the truth, for the plague is a supernatural metaphor for the moral guilt or contagion that Oedipus carries for his unwitting crime; the dramatic irony lying in the fact that the audience is aware, all the while, that in cursing the murderer with the most powerful curses Oedipus is, in fact, cursing himself. In this way, the single dramatic concept of plague/disease in Oedipus the King functions in the tragedy on three distinct levels: as a narrative engine, propelling the plot forward; as a metaphor for moral contagion; and as a source of dramatic irony in the tragedy.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Translated by Stephen Berg and
Diskin Clay. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.