Oedipus Rex CharactersOedipus Rex Characters

Oedipus Rex” Major Characters:-

Sophocles sketched the major characters of Oedipus Rex very skillfully. There are four major characters in the play, which are:-

  • Oedipus Rex (Protagonist of the play)
  • Jocaste (Wife of Oedipus Rex. At the end revealed as his mother)
  • Creon (Brother of Jocaste and maternal uncle as well as the brother-in-law of Oedipus Rex)
  • Teiresias (Blind fortune-teller)

“Oedipus Rex” Minor Characters:-

Apart from major characters, there are some minor characters which are worth mentioning. Some of them are:-

  • King Laius (Father of Oedipus Rex/former husband of Jocaste)
  • Haemon (Son of Creon)
  • Ismene (Daughter of Oedipus Rex)
  • Theseus (Well-wisher/supporter of Oedipus Rex)
  • Polynices (Son of Oedipus Rex)
  • Chorus (Song singer, a Greece concept)
Oedipus Rex Characters | Majors and Minors

Sophocles’s technique of characterization:

Sophocles mainly focused on tragedy rather than any other element of a drama yet he created perfect characters in Oedipus Rex. Perhaps, he wanted to show the world that character is destiny. He has directly challenged the supremacy of immortals (gods) while portraying perfect characters in his play Oedipus Rex, who are puppets in the hands of gods. Maybe, he wants to show that everyone’s fate is predestined and no one can escape from it. What may be the reason behind it, one thing is clear he wrote a perfect tragedy in the shape of “Oedipus Rex” with the help of the right characters which ultimately became one of the favourite tragedies of Aristotle as evident from his book “Poetics”.

Importance of “Art of Characterization”

“Art of Characterization” is the most important element for a writer. History clears us that many writers gained fame due to this important literary technique. Geoffrey Chaucer is among them. He is known to many of us due to his realistic character assessment technique. In fact, Geoffrey Chaucer’s art of characterization made him the best poet in the history of English Literature. It does not matter whether a writer writes a novel or drama, he always focuses on characterization. In the case of drama, the importance of characterization increases because a dramatist cannot directly convey his message to the audience, therefore, he advises them through his characters as suggested in Oedipus Rex. In this way, characters become more important in a play than in novel poetry or prose.

Characters Assessment in “Oedipus Rex”:-

A tragedy, in Aristotle’s eyes, is not dependent on characters. Although he says that there may be a tragedy without character but not without action yet action is not possible without sketching perfect characters. If “Oedipus Rex” is famous then characters can also take credit along with the plot and other necessary ingredients of the tragedy. Characters of Oedipus Rex provoke action, therefore, they can never be underestimated.

Let’s discuss major characters of the Oedipus Rex in detail.

Oedipus Rex:

He is the protagonist of the novel. In Aristotle’s eyes, he is an ideal tragic hero. He is a victim of circumstances yet we find hubris in him which causes his downfall. Aristotle says that it is a necessary ingredient of a tragedy that the protagonist should belong to the class of kings. Oedipus belongs to an aristocratic family as he is the son of a king. He himself becomes king in Thebes after solving the riddle of the Sphinx. He plays a major role in the catharsis of pity and fear.

A kind king:

Oedipus Rex is a kind king. He tries to know the reason behind the sufferings of the people of Thebes. He wants to solve it as soon as possible. It is, therefore, he time and again consults the oracle in order to get rid of the fuss. He does not care for himself when it comes to the security of his people. When Teiresias refuses to disclose the name of the murderer of King Laius, he forces him to utter the name of the murderer yet he does no harm to him. He is loyal to his people.

Intellectual blindness of Oedipus Rex:

As compared to Teiresias, he is not physically but mentally blind, he is blinder than Teiresias. He is unable to understand that due to him, his people are suffering. He cannot figure out that he is the murderer of his father (King Laius) until the end of the play. Due to his intellectual blindness, he prefers permanent blindness as punishment for him.

 Jocaste:

She is the mother of Oedipus Rex. At the same time, she is also his wife. She is the former wife of King Laius. She and her husband King Laius were prophesied through an oracle that their son would cause their downfall. It was oracled that Oedipus Rex would kill his father and marry his mother Jocaste. Ultimately, this prophecy is fulfilled even after Jocaste and King Laius’s struggles of killing their son Oedipus Rex. Jocaste commits suicide at the end of the play.

Creon:

He is one of the main characters of Oedipus Rex.  Creon is the maternal uncle and simultaneously brother-in-law of Oedipus Rex. He plays a major role in the play. He guides Oedipus Rex and also advises him rationally. Moreover, he strongly believes in gods and consults the oracle before finalizing a decision. At the end of the play, he becomes king of Thebes.

Teiresias:

He is a blind prophet. He knows everything but refuses to disclose it to Oedipus Rex. Characters like Teiresias are warnings for Oedipus Rex. In fact, characters like Creon and Teiresias are juxtaposed with Oedipus Rex; they are compared in the play. If Teiresias is physically blind then Oedipus Rex is mentally blind. He is well wisher of Thebes but also does not want to harm the king while disclosing the reality.

Minor Characters of Oedipus Rex:

King Laius:

He is the father of Oedipus Rex and the former king of Thebes but this fact is only disclosed at the end of the play. Jocaste is his former wife. He was cursed that his son would kill him and marry his wife. Oedipus Rex, in an encounter, kills him on the way to Thebes.

Ismene:

She is the daughter of Oedipus Rex. In this play, she has a minor role but in the latter plays of Sophocles, she appears as a significant character.

Polynices

The only son of Oedipus Rex.

Haemon:

Son of Creon

Theseus:

He is a well-wisher and supporter of Oedipus Rex. When Creon denies supporting Oedipus Rex in his decisions, Theseus supports Oedipus.

Chorus:

It was a Greece concept to present the chorus as a character of the play.  Chorus served the purpose of singing songs and briefing the audience.