Find evidence of Oedipus's greatness both in position and character in The Oedipus Plays.

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There are two plays by Sophocles in which Oedipus appears as a main character, namely Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. A third play by Sophocles, Antigone , deals with Oedipus's daughters and the fate of Thebes after the death of Oedipus. Although these three plays are sometimes referred...

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There are two plays by Sophocles in which Oedipus appears as a main character, namely Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. A third play by Sophocles, Antigone, deals with Oedipus's daughters and the fate of Thebes after the death of Oedipus. Although these three plays are sometimes referred to as a Theban "trilogy," they were actually written and presented separately.

Oedipus is the son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife Jocasta. Although he was abandoned by his parents, Oedipus was adopted by King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth and raised as their child. As the child of a king who was raised in a royal household, Oedipus was surrounded by great wealth and power. When Oedipus returns to Thebes, he marries Jocasta and becomes the ruler of Thebes, a wealthy ancient city-state, and thus attains greatness in position.

In terms of character, Oedipus is physically strong and exceptionally clever, with his intelligence used to save Thebes by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. His search for the truth about the origin of the pollution of Thebes also shows determination and loyalty to his city. At the end of Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus demonstrates great piety and moral character in making the choice to make his death a gift to the gracious Theseus and city of Athens and avoiding the machinations of Creon.

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Well, the fact that Oedipus became King of Thebes obviously indicates the kind of position that he attained in his life thanks to the way he conquered the sphinx and saved Thebes. However, the plays as a whole seem to point towards a curious contradiction in his character. That he was great is not at all questioned, however, his downfall seems to be linked precisely to his greatness. Consider what the Chorus says about the character of Oedipus at the end of Oedipus the King:

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.

Oedipus is therefore clearly presented as a person characterised by his "brilliance," but it also seems to suggest that the downfall of Oedipus was explicitly linked to his rise to power and greatness.In a sense, the Chorus suggests, Oedipus fell precisely because he overreached himself by being a man "beyond all power." Therefore, whilst the greatness of Oedipus is clearly indicated, both in his character and in his position, the Chorus uses him as an example to warn against reaching to high and placing ourselves in a position where we have too much power.

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