Oedipus Rex and Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh and Oedipus Rex The stories of Gilgamesh and Oedipus Rex show us through their themes that they have stronghold ties to the characteristics of classical literature. The story of the flood from the Old Testament shows great significance in the epic of Gilgamesh. In the story, it tells how Gilgamesh built a boat because the gods were going to send a flood and he wanted to cross the ocean to find immortality. Well, this is very similar to how God told Noah to build the ark because he was going to flood the whole world.
This shows how Gilgamesh respected the gods as did Noah for God. In almost every epic or story, there were gods present and they were all immortal. Gilgamesh strived to be immortal but at the last second, a serpent robbed it from him and that’s why immortality is unachievable in the epic. In the Iliad &the Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus, the main character, thinks he can defeat the Cyclops and is laughing and making fun of it. What ends up happening is the Cyclops sees them and kills most of his men. This is the same case for Oedipus.
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The first time Oedipus shows too much pride is in the very beginning, in the prologue. He says, “I Oedipus, a name that all men know. ” This shows he has much pride for himself. He feels he is very important, and that no one is above him. The term, classical literature, implies age or antiquity, but the word also implies the material is somehow valuable. It somehow shapes what comes in later time periods. When traditional literary scholars refer to classical literature, they usually mean that this literature is widely acknowledged as having outstanding or enduring qualities.
Oedipus Rex shows us that throughout the story, there are hidden messages connecting the plot (themes) to classical literature. In the epic Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is the king of Thebes because he solved the sphinx’s riddle. He is married to Iocaste. He doesn’t know, at the start of the play, that he has murdered his father and slept with his mother. He learns that he put his kingdom at terrible risk, and blinds himself using a brooch. He has a piercing wound in his ankles, made as a child by the father who exposed him, and he is self exiled. In Greek mythology, one of the major themes is the importance of fate and free will.
The story of Oedipus Rex is a perfect example that shows this theme. Fate and free will are intertwined with the main character, Oedipus. Oedipus is not only destined to perform hateful acts, but his notorious behavior determines his fate. The crimes that he commits against his father and mother are abhorrent but not as hateful as ignoring the same signs, which could have prevented the horrible tragedy. By not paying attention to the prophecy or following up on the rumors about his birth, Oedipus sets into motion the fate that was meant for him.
His assumptions and arrogance lead to his collapse. In the story of Oedipus Rex, Sophocles demonstrates that it’s Oedipus who chooses his path, the one of ignorance other than clarity, and in doing so; he has to take responsibility for his actions, which lead to his tragic downfall. The second major theme in this epic is arrogance. For example, Oedipus shows this theme throughout his conversation with Teiresias. The second theme of Oedipus’ personality leads to his horrific fall; it’s the characteristic of pride.
Throughout this epic Oedipus does not seem to understand the truth of things because his pride gets in the way of seeing the depth of things, instead of only looking at the surface of conflicts, which tends to bring him to his mistakes. During his conversation with Teiresias, Oedipus says, “Say what you will. Whatever you say is worthless. ” This quote shows that Oedipus believes that he is special and is better than anyone else. Throughout the conversation, Oedipus treats Teiresias with disrespect and acts as if Teiresias is inflicted with some kind of horrible disease.
Oedipus believes that Teiresias has no feelings and is ignorant to the city. But, it’s clear that Teiresias told Oedipus the truth of the murder of Laios, as if he were trying to help him open his eyes from his blindness, but most of the time, Oedipus’ pride spoke instead of his mind. One more personality/theme of Oedipus is his lack of trust for one another. The last theme of Oedipus’ personality is his lack of trust. Oedipus demonstrates this characteristic mostly at the beginning of the play.
For example, after Oedipus and Teiresias get into their argument, Oedipus tells Teiresias “Am I to bear this from him? -Damnation take you! Out of this place! Out of might sight! ” This quote illustrates that Oedipus doesn’t need Teiresias anymore. He believes that there’s no reason to believe Teiresias’ acquisition of the murderer. Also, after discovering that Creon, his wife’s brother, brought Teiresias to the palace, Oedipus feels that he can’t trust Creon or Teiresias. This lack of trust in these specific characters relates to Oedipus’ characteristic of arrogance.
Oedipus feels that because he has such a powerful position, there are people, like Creon, that want to overthrow Oedipus and take his position. As a result, Oedipus believes that he cannot trust certain characters. Along with having lack of trust in Teiresias and Creon, Oedipus also shows lack of trust to the gods and to the prophecies. Oedipus is different in many ways because Gilgamesh does not possess a tragic flaw and is not destined to do something that will contribute or bring about his downfall. Gilgamesh also uses themes tied to classical literature.
The epic of Gilgamesh is about the plight of a god-like man, Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, who befriends Enkidu, a man who grew up alone in the wilderness and who initially persuades Gilgamesh to be a better, less tyrannical ruler. Gilgamesh sets off on a journey to find immortality but is robbed of it by a serpent. Many themes are incorporated into the epic of Gilgamesh. The three main themes although are: death is inevitable, immortality is unachievable, and friendship is a necessity. In the epic of Gilgamesh, one of the main themes is that death is inevitable, which is exposed through Enkidu’s death.
When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh becomes very worried, because he realizes for the first time that everyone is going to die at some point in time. The fact that Enkidu is a close friend makes it even more evident to Gilgamesh that everyone is mortal. Then, along with this awareness, comes the theme of denial. Gilgamesh doesn’t want to accept the fact that he will die. He denies the truth, because he doesn’t want to think about the truth or deal with the tragedy that has just struck him. The second major theme is that you can’t be immortal. The theme of death being inevitable leads to another theme, related to the first.
This is that immortality is unachievable, revealed through similar examples just like the first theme. Gilgamesh realizes that immortality is not achievable after his quest for it. He discovers that the quest was pointless, because he will die regardless of the steps to prevent his death in the future. The last major theme in this play is friendship. The last main theme in the epic is that friendship is a necessity, shown through the connection of Enkidu and Gilgamesh. Both men are supportive of each other, always looking out for and encouraging one another.
For example, the Bull of Heaven, Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight and work together to kill it. The same thing occurs with Humbaba, they work together to cut off his head to claim their supply of timber. The two stories of Oedipus and Gilgamesh show us that, through their themes, there are routes connecting with classical literature virtues. It’s clear that Sophocles’ message in the story of Oedipus is that it is Oedipus who ultimately chooses his path through free will, and by doing so; he has to take responsibility for the actions that he’s performed.
Oedipus’ arrogance and lack of trust are the key factors that help him fulfill his own prophecy in which of course, brings the disastrous consequence of his downfall. Oedipus Rex is a tale full of high majesty and unspeakable tragedy in which a great man is tangled in a fall of his own making. This play was so powerful, it provided a model for the tragic works that followed it, and was recognized by Aristotle (in his Poetics) as the purest of all the classical tragedies. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a moving tale of the friendship between Gilgamesh, the demigod king of Uruk, and the wild man Enkidu.
Accepting one’s own mortality is the overarching theme of the epic as Gilgamesh and Enkidu find their chief purpose in the pursuit of eternal life. Throughout classical literature, the stories of Gilgamesh and Oedipus Rex have everlasting connections. The Theme of Oedipus Rex. (2004, May 04). In WriteWork. com. Retrieved 01:41, September 15, 2012, from http://www. writework. com/essay/theme-oedipus-rex WriteWork contributors. “The Theme of Oedipus Rex” WriteWork. com. WriteWork. com, 04 May, 2004. Web. 15 Sep. 2012.