Tag Archives: OEDIPUS TYRANNOUS

OEDIPUS REX/TYRANNOUS AND SIGMOND FREUD

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Lynn:  Before we get started I would like to point out that this Greek piece of literature is usually translated as Oedipus Rex instead of Tyrannous the Latin root for tyrant because back in that time it didn’t have the connotation it has now.  The “tyrant” was the popular ruler, so tyrannous is probably the best translation although Rex is the most common.   The question that I have for you is why did Sigmund Freud choose to base his entire psychological system on a Greek play? 
 
Joxua:  To say that Oedipus Tyrannous is just a play doesn’t do it justice.  This play has deep insights into the human condition.  I am not like other scholars in thinking that we are wiser than the ancients if anything I feel that in some ways we are stupider when it comes to people and relationship.  Human beings are intelligent objects so we find that truths about humans and groups of humans are constantly changing and unreliable, what is true today is patently false tomorrow.  Much more intelligent patterns evolve from humans than through objects or unintelligent objects or phenomenon.  Today we are insulated from relationship just as we are distracted from it so our understanding of human nature and of ourselves has been diminished as it is not as useful to us as it was to the ancients.  Oedipus Rex is predictive and descriptive of patterns in human relationship.  
 
Lynn:  That is brilliant.  Could you deconstruct for us the symbolism in the play and the hidden subjects and meanings?  
 
Joxua:  I would love to.  To start with Oedipus is found to be unfit for survival, as was the Greek tradition he was left exposed to the elements on the side of a hill as part of a post natal abortion.  “Oedipus” probably means gimpy leg which is why he was left to die, he was malformed.  He was rescued and raised by a goat herd and one day for some reason he runs into his father, who tries to kill him and he accidentally kills his father not knowing that it is his father.  Athens is being cursed by the gods and the Queen offers a reward for anyone that can answer the riddle of the sphinx, Oedipus says why the fuck not, my life has not been great up to this moment, maybe I will win the lottery.  
 
The sphinx asks him 3 questions which he is curiously predisposed to answer because of his physical flaw.  The question is “What walks on all fours as a child, 2 legs in the prime of life, and 3 legs in old age?”  the answer is mankind, this also shows us that the play itself is about the plight of mankind.  So Oedipus saves the day and he is the cause of the good, the queen, his mom, now without a king has weakened influence over her kingdom and so she needs to marry someone that will make her rule more popular with the people.  Oedipus is the most popular man in the kingdom and so obviously she marries him and he has no better option than being king so he accepts.  He ends up having children with his mother and eventually Athens falls into disfavor with the gods again, and is again in need of being saved.  
 
Once again Oedipus sets out to see if he can save Athens from the disfavor of the gods and what he finds out is that HE is himself the cause of the plagues on Athens.  He killed his father which is called a blood crime and the furies existed to torment people who killed family members because that was one of the worst crimes imaginable.  Not to mention he had committed incest with his mother.  Of more interest was that everything he had done had been perfectly logical and he had no way of knowing at the time that he was doing something wrong, being self interested and wanting to survive and live a good life and accepting the best options that were available to him.  The entire thing was orchestrated by Providence, it was pre-ordained, and he was being blamed for it, punished for it, and not just him but all of Athens was being punished for his sins.  Whereas before he was the cause of the good, now he was the cause of the bad because he had been the cause of the good.  All he could do now to ameliorate the situation was to exile himself from his home, which he does but he also plucks out his eyes and wanders the earth sightless so he doesn’t have to observe the insanity of the human condition anymore.  
 
lynn:  Whoa, that is gnarley!