Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Section 7 Analysis (lines 1351-1498)

The opening lines spoken by the messenger are directed to "the men of Thebes" (l. 1351), however, his statement "if you are true to your birth" (l. 1354) would likely resonate with Sophocles's intended audience and increase their connection to the play and empathy with Oedipus. This is vital because the more the audience has invested emotionally in Oedipus, the greater the effect of catharsis will be. Remember catharsis is the relieving of emotional tensions.

The audience does not see Jocasta hang herself or Oedipus gouge out his eyes. Clearly Greek theater could not employ the special effects so common to modern entertainment and these scenes would have been difficult to perform effectively if the actors had to rely on visual devices. Sophocles, however, creates a gruesome picture in the minds of the audience members with his word choice, especially in lines 1402-1414. Consider the following passage about Oedipus stabbing the brooch pins into his eyes: "And at each stroke blood spurts from the roots, splashing his beard, a swirl of it, nerves and clots—" (ll. 1412-1413).

This section is the climax of the play. At this point the audience is most likely to experience catharsis. The tension built up throughout the work and heightened in the last section is finally released as Sophocles employs much more graphic language than anywhere else in the play. Oedipus learns the truth, and true to character, takes immediate action to both punish himself and spare himself the sight of the horrors of his life (also this portrayal of the blinding adds weight to all the lines about sight and vision.)

Oedipus says, "But the hand that struck my eyes was mine, mine alone—no one else—I did it all myself!" (1469-1471). Oedipus seems to find a bit of solace in the fact that he finally has a choice in something—everything else in his life has been predetermined by the gods. By choosing to blind himself, he is arguably exercising the first instance of free will he has ever known.