How is the theme of nature explored in Oedipus Rex?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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From the outset of the drama, Sophocles establishes the tension between acts of nature and acts of human beings.  There is a disconnect between them.  In the Prologue, Thebes is besieged with famines, fires, and the plague. This helps to reflect a Classical belief that the when the natural order is cruel to humanity it is because of a disconnect between the way humans act towards the natural order or the power of the divine.  In this case, the death of Laius is reason for this disruption in the natural balance of consciousness.  Act I's highlight of Oedipus showing disrespect towards Teiresias further continues this schism between how the divine order perceives what humans do, in the form of Oedipus failing to show respect for one who can see without sight, a natural gift.  It is also interesting to note that only Jocasta really shows deference to the Gods, praying to Apollo to restore Oedipus' sanity.  It is not until Act V when Oedipus feels "the weight of the Oracle."  This can be seen as Oedipus accepting his own condition for the first time as a mortal and one who is insignificant in comparison to the Gods.  It makes sense that this recognition happens at this point, which is also the moment where he acts to restore order in the world and reestablish the natural configuration and harmony that he unknowingly disrupted with his hubris- ladened actions.

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