Explain how Oedipus experiences a reversal of fortune, a discovery of truth, and a calamity (excessive suffering) at the end of the play.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Oedipus experienced a reversal of fortune at the end of the play, because he fell from an enormous height. At the beginning of the play, he solved the riddle of the Sphinx, ruled Thebes, possessed a good functional family, and earned the respect and admiration of the people. At end of the play, all these honors are taken away, as he goes into exile. The reversals cannot be starker. Oedipus in one moment lost his city, family, and dignity. 

This reversal is on account of a revelation of truth. In other words, Oedipus did not really know who he was. When he found out his true identity, he realized that he killed his father in an act of violence, married his mother unwittingly, and bored children who were simultaneously his siblings. This revelation brought him low. 

All of these things brought enormous suffering. Truly the Greek adage - "Count no man happy until he is dead," applies to Oedipus. 

Here is what the chorus says:

People of Thebes, my countrymen, look on Oedipus. He solved the famous riddle with his brilliance, he rose to power, a man beyond all power. Who could behold his greatness without envy? Now what a black sea of terror has overwhelmed him. Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day, count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.


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