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Oedipus Rex

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As my undergraduate journey came to a very happy end this year, I remembered my first year at university. Being a part-time student it was very hectic and those busy days at work followed by three to four hours of class on an evening was really trying on my brain. Not to mention getting home after ten some nights and then having to stay up till about midnight or one in the morning to read articles or do assignments, then go to bed and having to wake up at four to get the bus by five thirty to reach to work for eight and then the cycle began all over again. Weekends were sometimes nonexistent as it was filled with even more classes, well, that is, if I decided that I would do an additional language course so sleep time was limited even more. Nevertheless, it was all worth it in the end. I got my degree, have no regrets and I am happy. It really was a struggle.

One of my first set of presentations for the second semester of my first year, was in the course Elements of Drama. Preferring to get presentations over with as early as possible in the semester, I opted for presenting my question in the second tutorial class. I had to present on Oedipus Rex, the tragic story of a young man who was done in by a prophecy. Or was he? That was the very crux of the matter in the question. For some reason, I could not think of how I was going to present this question that was posed to me. I had tried to do it as an essay type but from my understanding of the play, or rather, how it ignited my soul (for want of a better way to put it), an essay type presentation just was not suitable. I suddenly had this burst of inspiration (as I usually do most times) and out came out this magnificent poem that I conceived to answer the question and use for my presentation. Thankfully, my lecturer, Dr Maharaj, said that we could present the topic anyway we liked. Of course, I was very nervous on the day of presentation because I was not sure how it would have been received but for some reason, everyone seemed captivated when I started reading it. Even my lecturer was smiling. I could see her from the corner of my eyes leaning forward and taking in every word I was saying. When I was finished, everyone was in total awe and I was clapped and praised and all I could think about was thank goodness that it was over!

My lecturer was so elated that I had really engaged with the material and was so enthused about it that she made me read it again and also wanted me to email it to her so she could showcase it to others. I must say I was flattered but more so, relieved, relieved that the presentation went well. Now that that part of the course was over and done for me, all I had to focus on was the term paper and the practical aspect of the course, (yes, we had to perform a scene from one of the plays we studied as part of our final grade). And yes, I did pass the course. Woo ha!

So anyhow, without further due, this is or was the presentation below.

Question

WHAT IN YOUR VIEW IS OEDIPUS’ TRAGIC FLAW AND WHAT ROLE DOES IT PLAY IN HIS FATE?

Response

THE CRY OF OEDIPUS

I am Oedipus!

My pride is so great

To the gods, myself I equate

I am revered by all

I carry the sword of truth and justice in my hand

I will bring down anyone who threatens the land

For the land is threatened by a curse

And if I don’t deal with it, it will get worse

So I am pursuing this diligently

To bring the perpetrator to justice immediately

So I question and interrogate everybody

No one shall escape my scrutiny

No one has my pity

I shall be the one to bring about justice

Not one of you shall resist

I am responsible for order in this place

To catch this criminal, I must make haste

Because a victim I could be as well

But the killer first will go to hell

Closer and closer I come to the truth

Faster and faster I leap to my doom

Because when finally

I was able to see

The reflection of myself in the mirror in front of me

Of the man who had caused the curse of the land

And that man happened to be me

I was crushed, defeated and broken endlessly

The words of the prophecy

Returned then to haunt me

So my pride destroyed me

This tragic flaw I am perceived

A tragic hero I am labelled

For this man Aristotle

He said that in a tragedy –

For this is what he called my story –

He stated that “character determines men’s qualities

And it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.” (5)

So he is saying, that I am directly responsible

For my emotions now, which are unstable

Then there is this man named Muller

And he classified me even further

He said that a tragic hero possesses any one of these three (3) traits

“Perpetuate the deed of horror in full consciousness, might perpetrate it through ignorance and then discover his fatal error, might learn the truth just in time to avoid the fatal deed.” (8-9)

Thus I fall into the second category

As I did everything through ignorance

But now we must discuss this tragic flaw

This so-called element which was my undoing

They all claimed that this flaw was my pride

That I was proud

Even the CHORUS said so

Saying “Pride breeds the tyrant/

Violent pride, gorging, crammed to bursting/

With all that is overripe and rich with ruin.” (117-118)

Then Jump, another man who analysed me

Said that I was “too sure of myself, rash, arrogant” (88)

And yes, maybe I was

Because I proclaimed

That is was I who stopped the Sphinx

So this is what ruined me

But did I truly have a flaw?

And was it really my undoing?

Wasn’t this all preordained by the gods?

So how can people say that I have a tragic flaw?

And how can they say it had a hand in my fate?

Interestingly enough Jump agrees with me

Even though he said I was rash and arrogant

He also said that I “never resisted my destiny but rather

The tragedy occurred from my fierce intent on finding out the truth

No matter what the cost and not because of any ‘flaws’” (88)

Then there’s this man called Knox

Someone else who supports my theory

In that he believed I was destined

To do all these things by the gods at birth

So what these two people really stating

They are saying that I, Oedipus

Am just a victim of MY OWN FATE

That at birth everything was preordained

That this pride that everyone keeps talking about

That they say is what destroyed me

Which is indeed what ruined me

Was something those wretched gods factored in

Therefore, this flaw, this pride that was my undoing

Was given to me by the gods

I was allowed to live to the day

Just to discover that I “fulfilled the prediction” (Knox 94)

My tragic flaw is just being born

My situation, Knox calls it “a tragedy of destiny”

Is what it is really

Because if I wasn’t born

There would be no destiny to fulfil

I would not have committed patricide

There would have been no incest

Therefore, I don’t believe that I have a tragic flaw

Which had a hand in my ill fate

It was all the will of the gods

But if I do have a tragic flaw

In retrospect I admitted maybe I do

Then it’s only because the gods bestowed it on me

To fulfil my foretold destiny

Thrusting me into perpetual agony

Because I was too blind to see

The truth that was laid down before me

But now that I know

I wail and bemoan

For now I’ve lost my throne

And no one hears my cry

No tears shed for me

Although I was mean, rude and unmannerly

I still hoped people would feel sorry for me

My curse was too strong you see

The gods; they really do hate me.