The Greek play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles has a very famous peripeteia woven into its plot. A peripeteia is the sudden change in a situation and is a term used to describe plot twists in literary works, usually the climax of the plot. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and dramatic critic, was one of the first to discuss peripeteia in drama as the ''reversal of the situation.''
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The entire plot of Oedipus Rex revolves around a hidden truth: that King Oedipus murdered his father and married his mother. At the beginning of the play, Oedipus does not know these facts. He is a good king who tries to get rid of a plague on the city by following a prophecy to find Laius'skiller.
Tieresias, the blind prophet, tells Oedipus, ''Thou art the murderer of the man whose murderer thou pursuest.'' But Oedipus refuses to believe Tieresias at first. This leads him down a path to find the truth. When a messenger comes to Oedipus to tell him that his supposed father Polybus had died, Oedipus tells the messenger about the oracle who said that Oedipus would kill his father. The messenger tries to relieve Oedipus' fears by telling him that Polybus was not his real father. But this only make Oedipus more anxious and determined to find out who his real father is. This is the beginning of the rising action that builds towards the climax.
Peripeteia as Climax
A climax is the point of the story with most conflict and tension, after which follows the resolution. The sudden change in situation, or peripeteia, is what causes the ultimate conflict and tension in the play, so the peripeteia is also the climax.
The conflict and tension rises from the moment that Oedipus first discovers that the man who raised him was not his real father. Oedipus has a conversation with the herdsmen who found him abandoned on the mountainside. Reluctantly, the herdsmen tells Oedipus that the abandoned child, ''was one of the children of Laius.'' Now, Oedipus realizes the truth. It is his moment of peripeteia. He says:
''O, O, O, they will all come, all come out clearly! Light of the sun, let me look upon you no more after today! I who first saw the light bred of a match accursed and accursed in my living with them I lived with, cursed in my killing.''
Oedipus only accepts the fact that he has, in fact, killed his father and married his mother when he discovers who his parents really are. The action then falls as Oedipus blinds himself and is eventually exiled as the resolution.
Peripeteia is a sudden change in a situation. In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the peripeteia is when king Oedipus realizes the hidden truth: that he has killed his father and married his mother. He is told by Tieresias, the blind prophet, that he is, himself, the murderer he seeks. When the messenger reveals to Oedipus that the dead Polybus is not his real father, he seeks the truth from a herdsman who reveals his true parentage. The climax, the point of the story with the most conflict and tension, is the moment Oedipus accepts the truth, blinding himself as part of the resolution.
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Peripeteia in Oedipus Rex
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