What is the significance of Oedipus Rex's closing scene?

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The significance of the closing scene of Oedipus Rex is that it shows the title character regaining his heroic status. Just after Oedipus blinds himself after the revelation of a shocking truth, he acts heroically by insisting on his own death or banishment as punishment for having killed his father.

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The closing scene of Oedipus Rex reminds us why Oedipus is regarded as a hero. After gouging out his own eyes in response to the shocking revelation that he killed his own father and married his own mother, Oedipus quickly stages a remarkable recovery, the kind that only an authentic hero could possibly manage.

Most people in Oedipus's situation would go completely out of their minds. But then, Oedipus is not most people; he's a hero, and heroes do things rather differently.

A prime example of Oedipus's remarkable heroism comes in his insistence that the oracle's command—that the murderer of Laius should be killed or banished—be fulfilled. In fact, he repeatedly demands that the command be carried out, a sure sign that Oedipus is fast regaining the heroic status lost in the immediate aftermath of the stunning revelation of his guilt.

Earlier on in the play, Oedipus had abdicated his heroic status in his open defiance of Tiresias's prophecy. But now, in a complete turnaround, Oedipus's heroism is shown through his insistence on the oracle's command being carried out to the letter.

This kind of selfless behavior, even at the risk of his own life, is an example of Oedipus's heroism. In the closing scene of Oedipus Rex, we see the title character moving dramatically to reclaim the mantle of hero which he had lost.

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There is also significance in the final scene of Oedipus the King that extends beyond the boundaries of this one play.  It was part of a trilogy, and like any good serial, needed to set up the plays to follow.  In this case they were:  Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone.

Both plays are foreshadowed here in the final scene.  First, Oedipus begs to be allowed to leave Thebes, and Creon gives him permission, hinting that the Gods also agree.  That sets up Oedipus at Colonus.

Oedipus also ends the play by asking to hold his daughters, Antigone and Ismene, daughters of himself and Jocasta (his mother/wife).  It is significant that Oedipus is more worried about these girls and what will befall them than his sons, since the play Antigone is very focused on the dilemmas that especially Antigone faces.  Creon commands him to leave the children, and though he does not want to, Oedipus complies.  Creon reiterates Oedipus' fall from power with the lines (1523-24):

Do not seek to be master in everything,

for the things you mastered did not follow you throughout your life.

So the future lives of the children of Oedipus, cursed by their parents' incest, are hinted at here, as is the power (that Creon has claimed throughout the entire play not to want) that now falls on Creon as the ruler in Thebes.  Creon and his role as ruler plays a very important part in the play Antigone.

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The closing scene in Oedipus Rex is tragic and sets the stage for the punishment of Oedipus.  The son/husband of the now-dead Jocasta has discovered the truth of his horrific sins and leaves his home for the last time as a blind and bloodied man.  He has blinded himself literally as punishment for his figurative blindness regarding his role in his country's curse.  He asks the new king, his uncle/brother-in-law Creon, for several things.  First, he asks to see his children again.  After tracing their faces with his hands, he asks Creon to take care of his girls; he understands they will have extra difficulties in life once his abomination has been made known.  Second, he asks Creon to exile him, which Creon promptly does.

The significance of this scene is twofold, for me.  One, it fulfills all the curses which Oedipus so arrogantly places on whoever killed Lauis, thereby bringing the curse of the gods on his own city.  This is the ultimate irony of the play.  Second, it is a vivid picture of what happens when one defies the gods and attempts to control his own fate. 

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Oedipus Rex is what many consider to be the perfect tragic play; Oedipus, the title character, perfectly embodies Aristotle's description of a tragic hero, and the action of the play makes it what Aristotle defined as a true tragedy.

In the closing scene of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus, who has recently learned that he has unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, blinds himself as a form of self-punishment and prepares to live the rest of his life in exile. 

The Chorus closes the play with these final lines: 

People of our country Thebes, behold this Oedipus,
who knew the famous riddle and was a most powerful man,
whose fortunes all the citizens watched with emulation,(1555)
how deep the sea of dire misfortune that has taken him!
Therefore, it is necessary to call no man blessed
as we await the final day, until he has reached
the limit of life and suffered nothing grievous. 

This final scene is significant because it portrays Oedipus as a tragic hero and shows audiences that not even a noble man such as Oedipus is free of sin or wrongdoing.  After his reversal of fortune, Oedipus accepts responsibility for his actions (killing his father and marrying and having children with his mother) by blinding himself so that he won't have to "see" his sin--his children--any more.  Further, he prepares to live a life of exile since it is the punishment he vowed to impose upon the person who killed Laius (before he understood that he himself was the killer). 

Essentially, the Chorus, in the last lines of the play, is observing that no humans who are living are "blessed," as even the most powerful and respected people can fall victim to fate at any time. 
 

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What is the significance of the opening scene of Oedipus Rex?

The opening scene of Sophocles's play Oedipus Rex takes the audience to a city in crisis. The city's ruler wants to resolve the crisis, but he cannot do this until he understands its root cause. This simple context—a man looking for the answer to a problem—is the frame for the horror that follows.

When Oedipus arrives on scene, he says to the suppliants, "Be sure that I will gladly give you all my help." He does not know what that may entail, but he is a generous ruler and does not want his people to suffer. The suppliants respond with warm praise, saying to Oedipus that he has "uplifted our life" in his time as their king. They plead with him to "uplift" them once again and deliver them from the plague that stalks the city:

Let us not remember of your reign that we were first restored and then cast down: lift this state so that it falls no more!

Oedipus again assures the suppliants that he will do whatever he can. In fact, he has already sent his relative, Creon, to consult with the oracle of Apollo (the god of plagues) to see what the god advises in this case. Creon is taking his time getting back to Thebes, but once he arrives, Oedipus promises to take all necessary action to end the plague, and in so doing, he makes a fateful statement:

I would be no true man if I did not perform all that the god reveals.

When Oedipus says these words, he effectively "signs a blank check" for the events that follow. He is confident that, whatever action is required, he can perform it without undue negative consequence to himself. Indeed, he's certain that taking the required action will benefit everyone involved, himself as well as his subjects:

I will dispel this taint not on behalf of far-off friends, but for my own benefit [...] I will leave nothing untried.

The Chorus does not share Oedipus's certainty. They are fearful that any benefit that comes from following Apollo's advice will come at a high price:

I am on the rack, terror shakes my soul [...] wondering what debt [Apollo] will extract from me, perhaps unknown before, perhaps renewed with the revolving years.

Oedipus repeats his promise to do whatever is necessary to end the plague, and adds that if he himself is somehow to blame then "may [he] suffer the same things which [he has] just called down on others." Oedipus only wants to do what is right by his subjects, and will not exempt himself, their king, from any punishment Apollo may require. Alas, by making these promises, Oedipus seals his own doom. The opening scene therefore strongly foreshadows the fallout from Oedipus's generous but reckless words.

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What is the significance of the opening scene of Oedipus Rex?

The opening scene establishes Oedipus as a proud king. He tells his subjects—calling them his "children"—that his pain is so much greater than theirs is. It is as though he takes some kind of pride in the fact that he feels more pain than they. He says, "Your sorrow touches each man severally, / Him and none other, but I grieve at once / Both for the general and myself and you." He insists that he doesn't need prompting from them in order to move him to find the cause of their great suffering, telling them, "ye rouse no sluggard from day-dreams." Again, he insists that he is not a lazy king, dreaming away; he is active and careful and purposeful. Oedipus is like a proud father, insisting that his children have no need to speak to him about fulfilling his obligations to them. Further, the scene establishes Oedipus as a reasonably intelligent and able leader. He has exercised enough forethought to have already sent his brother-in-law (and uncle), Creon, to the oracle to find out what can be done to help his countrymen. His high opinion of himself as a leader, therefore, seems to be at least somewhat confirmed by his actions so far.

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What is the significance of the opening scene of Oedipus Rex?

The opening scene of Oedipus Rex is Oedipus standing before the people of Thebes, asking why are they are mourning.  Speaking on behalf of the people, a priest explains to Oedipus that they (the people) are suffering - from famine, hunger, death, and sorrow.  Oedipus decrees (in front of everyone) that he helped them once (speaking of solving the riddle of the sphynx) so certainly he will help them again.  He promises to do whatever it takes to find the source of all this strife, and then eliminate it.

The significance of this is that this is the very scene where Oedipus dooms himself.  First, he brags about how great and powerful he is as their king (his tragic flaw: hubris).  Then, he promises to seek out the source of the problem (which turns out to be himself) and promises to get rid of it (which means he must learn that his fate to kill his father and marry his mother has come true and then eliminate himself from the kingdom - through banishment or death).  This scene sets the tone of dramatic irony immediately.  We, the audience, know the doom that awaits this powerful king.  Oedipus is unaware of all of this.  He does not even know of the fate spoken over him as a child, let alone that it came true even when his parents attempted to prevent it.  Now, all we must do is watch (or read on) to witness what we know is inevitable destruction.  What a hook!

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