How is Oedipus the King related to Greek culture?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Socrates's play Oedipus Rex is reflective of Greek culture in several ways:

1.  The character of Oedipus himself is made tragic by his hubris, or excessive pride.  In the Greek culture, such arrogance was definitely frowned upon.  The Oedipus Triology clearly examine the faultiness of pride.

2.  In the time of the Greeks, people struggled with the idea of fate vs. freedom of choice.  Because of the controversy that this issue caused, plays dealt with it as a theme to purport an opinion on whether the gods chose a way for people or there was actually such a thing as human decision.

3.  Unlike other pagan cultures, the ancient Greeks did believe in an afterlife.  Oedipus Rex, followed by Oedipus at Colonus demonstrate this belief as Oedipus the king, blinds himself out of guilt for his pride; then, while he is at Colonus, he knows that his suffering has conferred special spiritual benefits, and his dead body will confer benefits on the land in which it lies.

4.  The seer played an important role in the life of the Greeks.  Many seers were highly paid, educated members of the elite who were consulted in the areas of daily life, political decisions, and military campaigns since the Greeks wished to maintain a positive relationship with the gods and not tempt the fates.  Their belief in an afterlife also encouraged their reliance upon the seers.