Oedipus Rex, a drama by Sophocles has been one of the most widely read plays throughout the world. For many decades, it has received a lot of readers and a wide audience alike. The drama, Oedipus Rex has made great achievements and established a very significant theme that the fate of every person is unavoidable. Nevertheless, through time, the play has become a different thing altogether. Before the eyes of Sigmund Freud, Oedipus Rex turned out to be the main illustration of a psychological theory that came to be known as the “Oedipus Complex”.
The Oedipus complex can be defined as a psychoanalytical theory that was created by Sigmund Freud heavily deriving from the play by Sophocles. Under the influence of Sigmund Freud, there have been many critics to this day who have been working to find the elements of the Oedipus complex in the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet. The theory explains that every child has got a sexual desire for one of their parent of the opposite sex and may even wish death for the parent of the same sex with them. This in the present day is something that is believed to happen with little children. According to the play, the Oedipus complex can be looked at as totally unhelpful (Jacobus, 2013). This is because Oedipus was not a child by the time the play by Sophocles took place. The other reason is because the play is dependent on the fact that he is very unconscious of his parents’ identity while he murders and lays with them respectively.
The Oedipus complex, also referred to as the Oedipal Complex is one of the theories by Sigmund in the psychosexual development stages. The main concept of the theory describes the feelings of a boy towards his mother and a resentment and jealousy towards his father. The boy will always feel like they are in a competition with his father in possessing the mother. He will tend to look at his father as an enemy for the affection and the attention of his mother. The complex mostly takes place during the phallic stage in psychosexual development which usually happens from the ages of three to five. This stage also happens in girls but it is known as the Electra complex for girls. Sigmund Freud explains that the stage is very important in the definition of one’s sexual identity.
For every child to grow into a successful and normal adult with a right mindset, they ought to be able to resolve this developmental conflict by themselves. According to Sigmund Freud’s mind’s structural model, he has laid out three major parts which are the ego, id, and superego. These three fundamental parts are what makes up a person’s mindset and the activities they take part in (Clark, 2009). Usually, the ‘id’ is the natural and primitive part of one’s personality. The id is usually about the inherited character traits that may include aggression instinct and sex instinct. This is usually a part of the unconscious mind that is directly responsive to our instincts. The “ego” develops to help solve everything that is between the actual world and the unrealistic “id”. The “ego” is mainly applied in making of decisions as a part of one’s personality. The Ego also tries to look for the realistic ways of bringing satisfaction to the demands of the id, satisfying the demands while keeping of consequences. Finally, the “superego” is what brings together the principles of humanity learned from others and ethics. The purpose of the superego is regulation of the desires of the id especially those that are against humanity. It also works towards influencing the ego to achieve moral goals instead of only the realistic ones. It also works hard for perfection.
In the Oedipus Complex theory by Sigmund Freud, he gave a proposal that while the id works hard in a young boy towards eliminating the father, the ego which is more realistic understand that the father is stronger. To help in resolving the conflict, the boy may then start to identify with his father (Freud). At this point, the formation of the super-ego begins and it becomes the moral head in suppressing of the desires of the ego and the id towards working upon the achievement of ideal standards. In Freud’s work, The Ego and the Id, he explains that, “The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more powerful the Oedipus complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the stricter will be the domination of the super-ego over the ego later on—in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt”.
Sigmund gave a proposal of his Oedipus complex theory in a book that he wrote in 1899 known as The Interpretation of Dreams, but he never named the theory until the year 1910. This theory van be seen as both plausible and intriguing. Nevertheless, to clarify Sigmund’s theory according to Oedipus Rex by Sophocles might be unnecessary. In the real sense, the ideas by both of these people are not the same. In fact, they only have one similarity: a boy who disposes his father to possess the mother. There are no other notable similarities that are so prevalent in the two works. Up to today, when taking a read through the Oedipus Rex, something will automatically start to come into one’s mind; the psychological impacts of the psychological developmental stage by Freud than on the intention of Sophocles. According to his book, he had already written and stated about Oedipus that, “His destiny moves us all because it might have been ours – because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so’’ (Freud 143).
Freud has used the Oedipus play as the fundamental model in coming up with his psychoanalytic theory about male desires in childhood. Nevertheless, we in the play don’t see any erotic feelings in Oedipus towards Merope, his supposed mother. Sometime later, after the King Oedipus married his own mother, he never did it out of desire or love. The Thebes people gave to him Jocasta after he proved able to give a solution to the Sphinx’s riddle. Additionally, there is no point in the play where we see any straightforward desire in Oedipus to murder his male parent (Clark, 2009). It simply happens that Oedipus’ father confronted him rudely and it was during defending himself that he killed him. There happens to be a very high probability that there are many children all over the world who just want to be close to one parent while they want to be apart or hesitant towards the other. However, the theory by Freud doesn’t totally fit into Oedipus Rex. In some way, Oedipus has his “id” made up that he was up to marrying his mother and killing his mother even though there was an ego that told him that he would never overcome his father and a superego that tried to suppress the desires. Nevertheless, this appears to be different in a way according to whatever we see in the play.
Most of the critics in psychoanalysis have been essentially ignoring the uncertainties in the realization of Oedipus, but it has been vital to comprehend the play as a whole. The interpretation that has been widely applied has been the Oedipus complex as well as the belief by Freud that the unconscious part of the mind always has a big role to play in anyone’s life as well as making of decisions especially ones related to personal desires. Nevertheless, there have been other theories that can be written from the play (Cherry). The theory brought out by Freud is not bad in any way but might also be looked at as an interpretation of the capacity of the human mind. Through life, he had been dealing with his own disappointments pertaining to sexuality that may have led to psychological issues and may be displayed in different ways.
In a book by Jeffery B. Rubin known as A Psychoanalysis for Our Time, he has written that “Freud’s main problem in life was his robust determination to repress his own sexual desires. It is plain from his many analyses of psychological difficulties as manifestations of sexual frustration and repression that Freud was more often Projecting – a thing about which he was not only correct but a subject matter expert – than diagnosing. His unhealthy fixation with sexual frustration as the key component in almost any psychological difficulty makes this plain” (13). With this, any analysis could just be analysis and the Oedipus complex is one of them. It is very realistic but can be taken as an opinion only and not the whole truth. In the present times, most of the people have believed that everything that happens takes place in the mind either unconsciously or consciously (Rubin, 1998). There are however few people who believe that there is something superior to all human; fate. Oedipus tries to overpower, however he is unable to conquer it. He a good example of a misfortune that any person may get confronted with in his life. Nevertheless, according to psychological analysis, he is continually trying to find his truth. Oedipus is led into humiliation as he believes was preserved for him by the gods but still fights hard to gain independence and improve his worth as a person.
Cherry, Kendra. “The Oedipal Complex: One of Freud’s Most Controversial Ideas.” About. About Education, 16 Dec. 2017. Web.
Clark, Margaret. “Suppose Freud Had Chosen Orestes Instead.” Journal of Analytical Psychology 54.2 (2009): 233-252. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Dec. 2017.
Freud, Sigmund. “Interpretation of Dreams.” Google Books. Google, 4 Nov. 1899. Web.
Jacobus, Lee A. Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Drama. 7th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2013. 41-79. Print.
Rubin, J. B. A psychoanalysis for our time: Exploring the blindness of the seeing I. New York University Press, 1998.