Identify and explain the major internal and external conflicts in Oedipus the King.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oedipus experiences several conflicts over the course of the play. Some occur in the period in which the play takes place, although a crucial one occurs before the beginning of the play and is responsible for many of the events that occur during the play. The major external conflicts involve the following characters.

Laius: Before the play starts, Oedipus has killed Laius. This makes his death patricide and (along with his marriage to Jocasta) is the cause of the plague.

Creon: Oedipus suspects that Creon wants the throne. Oedipus is more of an individualist and Creon more of a traditionalist; Oedipus often disagrees with Creon on the issue of respect for tradition, custom, and prophecy.

Tiresias: Oedipus presses Tiresias to speak despite the prophet's obvious reluctance. Oedipus also gets angry when Tiresias says things he does not wish to hear. 

The major internal conflict occurs when Oedipus realizes what he has inadvertently done. He struggles with how to live with the burden of this knowledge and eventually blinds and exiles himself rather than continue to pollute Thebes.