There is a variety of elements of drama that writers can choose from, when writing their works.
These elements include theme, plot, characters, and language among others. In Oedipus the King, Sophocles uses the element of theme to produce a thrilling composition. The three important themes here include the power of conventional law, disposition to disregard the truth and confines of free will.
Sophocles uses the theme of power of conventional law.
The need to bury the dead surpasses any law regardless of how the dead person was evil or unpopular. This comes out clearly for Creon after assuming power in Thebes. After losing his power to Creon, Polynices dies. Unfortunately, Creon being the king commands that Polynices corpse be left unburied for dogs and birds to feed on him and everyone; who had been wronged by this wicked man, see him. (Sophocles 98). Because Polynices was a wicked man, Creon assumes this fact justifies his acts.
It is true that Polynices had insulted everything and everyone including religion and power. However, as the play unfolds, the audience realizes that burying the dead is not tied to state rules and it has nothing to do with citizenship and loyalty, but has everything to do with humanity. Creon comes to learn, though late; that, the rotting body of Polynices was more of lewdness than punishment. Even though there was no written law in Greece customs to bury the dead, the conventional laws, tied to humanity had power over the state. Again, Sophocles shows how people have the disposition to disregard the truth. Even though Oedipus knows the truth concerning Laius’s murder, he does all he can to exculpate himself.
Oedipus knows very clearly that he killed Laius single-handedly; however, he is clinging to the side of the story that claims that Laius died in the hands of strangers. On the same basis, Oedipus chooses to ignore the oracle while Jocasta overlooks the fact that her son was to kill her husband. Oedipus knows this very well but in an attempt to feel good they deliberately choose to ignore the truth.
The ironical part of this part notwithstanding; the audience cannot fail to see the vehement denial of truth. People have eyes; they see but choose not to acknowledge and accept the truth. Finally, freewill has limits and this comes out clearly in this story. Prophecy and oracles were respected amongst Greek people during this era.
This same oracle had predicted that Oedipus was going to murder his own father and take his mother to bed. On the other hand, prophecy had let Jocasta know that her son would kill her husband and sleep with her. As events unravel, it is clear to Oedipus that he is that boy talked of in Jocasta’s story; however, he cannot use his freewill to change things.
Things have gone out of hand such that, they cannot be restored; not even by freewill.
Sophocles employs the element of theme to communicate with the audience. The theme of this story was to address issues that were affecting the people of Thebes during this time and even in times to come. The audience can easily know what Sophocles meant by writing this script. This is because even as the audience looks back in real life, the issues addressed here are easy to identify with in the society today. These are not foreign events happening to Oedipus only; no, they are happening in real life, right under the watch of the audience. This element of drama comes out strongly and makes the play compelling.
“Oedipus the King.” Berg, Stephen & Clay, Diskin. Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.