How does Oedipus's evolving conflict with man in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex  relate to Achilles' conflict with man in Homer's Iliad?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Homer's Iliad, a great deal of destruction is caused and many lives are lost due to Achilles' desire to avenge himself on Agamemnon. Agamemnon, jealous of Achilles' power and all the glory he receives for his fighting abilities, insults Achilles. After the Achaians sack Thebes, Agamemnon takes Apollo's priest's daughter Chryseis as a war prize while Achilles takes Briseis. When the priest petitions for her return, bringing ransom money instead, Agamemnon is furious and refuses. Apollo then begins killing many Achaians with a terrible plague. Finally, Agamemnon relents but not without demanding compensation for his loss, and the compensation he demands is Achilles' prize Briseis. Thoroughly insulted, Achilles asks his mother Thetis, goddess of water, to petition Zeus to avenge Achilles by allowing the Trojans to conquer the Achaians. In short, at the heart of the story is the fact that Achilles was greatly insulted by Agamemnon due to Agamemnon's jealousy. Hence, the man vs. man conflict in the Iliad is seen in Achilles' personal battle with Agamemnon.

Similarly, Oedipus feels insulted by Creon and feels that Creon is trying to not only betray him but assassinate him. Therefore, the man vs. man conflict in Oedipus Rex is seen in Oedipus's personal battle with Creon. However, unlike the Iliad, Oedipus is actually wrong to accuse Creon of jealousy and treachery. We first see Oedipus accuse Creon of a treasonous plot after Tiresias delivers his horrific prophecy. Oedipus refuses to believe what he has just heard, believing instead that Tiresias has been paid by Creon to deliver false prophecy so that Creon can seize the throne from Oedipus, as we see in Oedipus's lines:

... the trusted Creon, my friend from the beginning, beguiles me and secretly desires to oust me, engaging this craftily-working wizard. (405-407)

However, Creon remains firm in his denial of treason, claiming that he has never been anything but loyal to Oedipus, as we see in Creon's lines:

If in our present distress he thinks he has suffered at my hands, then I have no desire for long life if I must bear this reputation. (541-544)

Hence, we see that while both the Iliad and Oedipus Rex contain man vs. man conflicts, the conflict in the Iliad is real while the conflict in Oedipus Rex is really just a figment of Oedipus's imagination and a result of his excessive pride.

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