Discuss how the technique of time is used to raise tension in Oedipus Rex.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is very interesting and a unique perspective on the drama.   Time is an element that helps to raise the tension level in the play.  The fact that Oedipus is on a self imposed time schedule is what drives the drama.  Oedipus has pledged to immediately rid his people of the plague that has gripped his kingdom.  Oedipus demands action and an end to it immediately.  He does not ever indicate that he is willing to allow such an investigation to take its own time or to proceed in due course.   Rather, Oedipus drives the issue by wanting answers and wanting them soon.  He is driven to discover a way to end the plague immediately.  This time element is what heightens the tragic unfolding of events because he refuses to acquiesce to any potential pleas from anyone to deliberately and cautiously pursue leads that could be destructive.  Instead, Oedipus seeks to force the issue in terms of discovering “the answer” immediately.  Even his actions upon finding the truth are done in an immediate condition, as he blinds himself almost instantly from seeing the damage that he has caused.  Time is what drives him, the sense of the immediacy, and in what, despite its bizarre placement, Dr. King would call “the fierce urgency of now.”

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