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Character Development in the Oedipus Cycle

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In the Oedipus Cycle Sophocles conveys a powerful message through his characters--that with experience comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes the ability to see the truth. Oedipus is the man of unyielding pride and arrogance, Creon, his brother, is the crafty politician, and Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, is perceptive and righteous. These three characters' personae play a major role in making the idea of truth tangible.

In the beginning of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is still riding on the power high he received from solving the riddle of the sphinx and becoming King of Thebes overnight. When presented with the news of the plague from the local priest, Oedipus is eager to once again flaunt his skills and save the city of Thebes. Once Teiresias the prophet tells Oedipus the truth about his origins, his haughty pretentiousness is revealed through his words; "Has your mystic mummer ever approached the truth? ...But I came by, Oedipus...I thought it out for myself, no birds helped me!" Oedipus is blind to what is obvious because his arrogance will not let him admit the horrible truth but eventually, as the evidence becomes all too obvious, his initial pride and stubbornness leads to despair and desolation.

In Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus seems partially recovered from the events of Oedipus Rex as he becomes much wiser to the workings of fate and the gods. He realizes that everyone has their place in the fabric of destiny and that it was not entirely his fault for committing acts of incest and murder. He is indignant in this and in reply to the chorus' repugnance he says, "I suffered those deeds more than I acted them...Think: their eyes [gods] are fixed upon the just, fixed on the unjust, too; no impious man can twist away from them forever." This wisdom gives him more confidence than ever before and through his divine vision he finds peace and honor in death.

Out of all the characters in the Oedipus Cycle, Creon is the most diverse and three-dimensional among them. In Oedipus Rex, he has a rational and respectable attitude towards the inflamed Oedipus. When Oedipus realizes what the gods had in store for him, Creon benevolently grants him all of his wishes--to oversee his daughters' safety and to exile him from Thebes. This character is markedly different from the Creon in Oedipus at Colonus. In the second play of the cycle Creon comes to Oedipus, "...generous in words, but in reality evil." Creon attempts to attain the throne by gaining Oedipus' favor and he cunningly tries to manipulate the chorus' emotions so that he can avoid conflict. Unfortunately, for all of Creon's cleverness, Oedipus manages to get the upper hand and Creon demonstrates the length he will go to meet his ends by kidnapping Oedipus' daughters. This brutality extends into Antigone but absolute power transforms his manipulation into outright tyranny. Creon finally achieves the ultimate dream of any politician and he relishes it so much that one of the first things he does as king is to decree that

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