Can Oedipus be both guilty and innocent at the same time?    

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
I think that Oedipus's actions are easy to judge, but that he did not really do anything terribly wrong. In his society, the choices he made would have been considered moral and just by most. Oedipus's pride is something we are all familiar with. All of us are guilty of hubris from time to time.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I agree with the earlier response that Oedipus can be (and is) both guilty and innocent at the same time. He is guilty in the sense that he does indeed kill his father and marry his mother; he is innocent in the sense that he never intended to do any such thing.  It is partly this combination of innocence and guilt that makes Oedipus (and Oedipus) so fascinating.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a sophisticated question. Of course, Oedipus can be guilty and innocent at the same time. In fact, all people are innocent and guilty to some degree.

When we look at the life of Oedipus, we see that he is guilty of certain things outright, such as his hubris. This is to say that he takes himself too seriously and he thinks that he could solve any problem. Moreover, when he is confronted by the fact that he could be the source of the plague at Thebes, he does not even consider this fact, until he is forced to. In this sense, he is guilty of pride, which was a huge transgression in the Greek world.

In some sense he is also innocent. It is true that he unwittingly married his mother and killed his father. There is guilt in this, but his guilt could have been much greater, had he done these things on purpose! Oedipus at Colonus redeems Oedipus somewhat. He becomes a holy man in sense and be becomes a blessing to Athens.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial