Do you think  that the tragedy of Oedipus accurately reflects the controversial Theory of Oedipus complex?Do you think the ancient audience believed it did, had they known of it?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Oedipus Complex theory involves a male child who is secretly in love with or has a very strong bond with his mother so that it interferes with his relationship or bond with his father.  I'm sure that it can be put in more eloquent terms, but this is my understanding.  If we go with this definition, then I don't see how you can't agree that the play is definitely accurately reflecting this controversial theory.  Oedipus unknowingly murders his father--you can't get much more between the relationship of two parents than by killing one of them.  Afterward, he marries his mother.  Of course, to his credit, he didn't know it was his mother, but this is a very strong perhaps unnatural bond with his own mom. 

Now, since he was unaware that these people were his parents, you could argue that the theory is flawed.  Had he known the man was his father, chances are they wouldn't have fought so ferociously that one of them ended up dead.  By the same token, it is safe to assume that he would never have married his mother had he known she had given birth to him.  There is a definite "icky" factor there (for lack of a better, more professional term).

So, back to your original question...does it accurately reflect the Oedipus Complex theory?  It could go either way.  What do you believe?  He knew of the prophecy and tried to escape it by leaving what he believed to be his hometown.  In this case, you could argue that the prophecy came true without his knowledge or pursuit.  If this is your angle, then it doesn't accurately portray the theory since he did not willingly kill a man he knew to be his father in order to marry his mother. 

Good Luck!

hero5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From Freud's explanation of the Oedipus complex, the tragedy of Oedipus is not accurately reflected. Oedipus was aware of the prophecy that he would kill his father and have children with his mother. He left his home so that would not be fulfilled since he thought he was raised by his parents. When he killed a man on the road he did not have the knowledge that it was the king, much less his father. The queen was given to him as a reward, he did not choose her. Therefore, to name a complex after Oedipus in which a son sees his father naked, becomes jealous of the father's size in comparison to his own, sees the father's love toward the mother and becomes jealous of that love, does not really reflect the character of Oedipus at all. The comparison between the two is rather simplistic because the only thing in common, really, is that the son is in love with his mother.


Whether or not the ancient audience would have seen the parallel and seen it as an accurate reflection is hard to say. The ancient Greeks did not have the same societal morals that Western culture has today. I think they would have seen Oedipus and his parents as fools for trying to change fate.