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Oedipus (US /ˈɛdɨpəs/ or UK /ˈdɨpəs/; Ancient Greek: Οἰδίπους

Oidípous meaning "swollen foot") was a mythical Greek king of Thebes. A tragic hero in Greek mythology, Oedipus fulfilled a prophecy that said he would kill his father, and thereby bring disaster on his city and family. The story of Oedipus is the subject of Sophocles's tragedy Oedipus the King, which was followed by Oedipus at Colonus and then Antigone. Together, these plays make up Sophocles's three Theban plays. Oedipus represents two enduring themes of Greek myth and drama: the flawed nature of humanity and an individual's powerlessness against the course of destiny in a harsh universe.

Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. In the most well-known version of the myth, Laius wished to thwart a prophecy saying that his child would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. Thus, he fastened the infant's feet together with a large pin and left him to die on a mountainside. The baby was found on Kithairon by shepherds and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope in the city of Corinth. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy, but believing he was fated to murder Polybus and marry Merope he left Corinth. Heading to Thebes, Oedipus met an older man in a chariot coming the other way on a narrow road. The two quarreled over who should give way, which resulted in Oedipus killing the stranger and continuing on to Thebes. He found that the king of the city (Laius) had been recently killed and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the monster's riddle correctly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king and the hand in marriage of the king's widow, his mother, Jocasta.

Oedipus and Jocasta had two sons (Eteocles and Polynices) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). In his search to determine who killed Laius (and thus end a plague on Thebes), Oedipus discovered it was he who had killed the late king: his father. Jocasta also soon realized that she had married her own son and Laius's murderer, and she hanged herself. Oedipus seized two pins from her dress and blinded himself with them. Oedipus was driven into exile, accompanied by Antigone and Ismene. After years of wandering, he arrived in Athens, where he found refuge in a grove of trees called Colonus. By this time, warring factions in Thebes wished him to return to that city, believing that his body would bring it luck. However, Oedipus died at Colonus, and the presence of his grave there was said to bring good fortune to Athens.

The legend of Oedipus has been retold in many versions, and was used by Sigmund Freud as the namesake of the Oedipus complex.

The Oedipus complex Edit

Main article: Oedipus complex
See also: Electra complex

Sigmund Freud used the name The Oedipus complex to explain the origin of certain neuroses in childhood. It is defined as a male child's unconscious desire for the exclusive love of his mother. This desire includes jealousy towards the father and the unconscious wish for that parent's death, as well as the unconscious desire for sexual intercourse with the mother. Oedipus himself, as portrayed in the myth, did not suffer from this neurosis – at least, not towards Jocasta, whom he only met as an adult (if anything, such feelings would have been directed at Merope – but there is no hint of that). Freud reasoned that the ancient Greek audience, which heard the story told or saw the plays based on it, did know that Oedipus was actually killing his father and marrying his mother; the story being continually told and played therefore reflected a preoccupation with the theme.[1]

The term oedipism is used in medicine for serious self-inflicted eye injury, an extremely rare form of severe self-harm.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Bruno Bettelheim (1983). Freud and Man's Soul, Knopf.

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