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Oedipus Crux: Reasonable Doubt in Oedipus the King

From: College Literature
Volume 39, Number 3, Summer 2012
pp. 26-60 | 10.1353/lit.2012.0025

Abstract

Abstract:

Oedipus didn't do it, at least not in Oedipus the King. Given all of the tragedy's conflicting testimony and unclear facts, there is little to prove the hero unwittingly murdered his father and married his mother, aside from his own self-conviction. Sophocles's drama indeed suggests that two traveling parties were massacred at the crossroads: one a royal entourage and the other a rustic band, one assailed by multiple killers and the other by a solitary traveler, Oedipus, who killed not King Laius but another elderly man. As for the charge of incest, Oedipus may not be Jocasta's offspring. The play further implies that the prophet Teiresias could have concocted his accusations of parricide and incest from inside intelligence, local tropes, and common fears. To thus question the facts of Oedipus's guilt is to bring to task tenets incorporated in Western tradition as a near gospel of guilt, judgment, and fate.


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