Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Antigone: The Inadequacy of Man
A paper arguing that Sophocles believes that human intelligence is merely an illusion and that men are incapable of rationally plotting their own destiny.
“The Greek ode to man at the beginning of Antigone states that man is the most wonderful of many marvels in this world, but it is not such a confident statement as it first appears. The adjective used to describe man, deinos, means not only “wonderful,” but also “terrible” and “fearful” (Woodard, 71). The greatest ambiguity, however, lies in man himself. Man claims control and domination of the world, yet he cannot control himself. The task of guiding men is left up to the gods, whose complete knowledge allows for just actions. In Oedipus Rex and Antigone, Sophocles displays the Greek conception that the fates determined by the gods are inevitable. He also teaches, through the tragic stories of Oedipus and Creon, that men who try to assume responsibility for their own fates will not only still be subject to the fates determined by the gods, but will destroy themselves in their attempt. Men do not possess the knowledge of the gods. Human intelligence is merely an illusion. Thus, men are incapable of rationally plotting their own destiny. If they try, as Oedipus and Creon did, they will blindly follow a path of ignorance, which leads only to destruction.”