Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Section 8 Analysis (lines 1499-1684)

The first lines spoken in this section highlight the effect of tragedy on Oedipus, who declares his crimes "too huge for hanging" (l. 1504). This passage might suggest that it was Oedipus's guilt that kept him from killing himself. Perhaps he believes he does not deserve the peace death would bring, though he clearly longs for it as shown when he says, "Oblivion—what a blessing" (l. 1522). Oedipus is not the only one horrified by what has transpired. He is so thoroughly cursed by the gods that the whole Chorus and Creon shrink away from his touch.

Creon says to Oedipus, "And this time, I assume, even you will obey the god's decrees" (ll. 1581-1582), which underscores how Oedipus's pride only worsened his fall (though humility could not have saved him.) Creon also speaks a line that sounds like consolation, but given the events of the play can easily be read as dark irony: "Time is the great healer, you will see" (l. 1664).

The play ends with the Chorus addressing the audience directly. The final passage carries more weight not only because it is the last one spoken, but because it is the only time in the play the audience is directly addressed. Earlier, Sophocles connected Oedipus's fate to the lives of the audience members, and he ends the play by explicitly stating that same connection, pointing out that no person will be free from suffering—happy—until death. The resonance with the universal human condition of suffering that Sophocles creates with this play is perhaps the greatest reason why this work has endured for so long.

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