How Did Oedipus Kill Himself

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 693 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 693|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Tragic Hero's Downfall
  2. The Ambiguous Ending
  3. The Psychological Motivation
  4. Implications and Further Exploration
  5. Conclusion

Throughout the pages of ancient Greek tragedy, the story of Oedipus has captivated audiences with its intricate plot and timeless themes. One of the most shocking moments in this tragic tale is Oedipus' self-inflicted demise. But how did Oedipus kill himself? This essay aims to explore the various interpretations and literary evidence surrounding this dramatic event, shedding light on the motivations and methods of Oedipus' ultimate act of self-destruction.

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The Tragic Hero's Downfall

Before delving into the specifics of Oedipus' suicide, it is crucial to understand the context in which this act takes place. Oedipus, the protagonist of the eponymous play written by Sophocles, is a classic example of a tragic hero. His journey is marked by a tragic flaw, a fatal mistake that ultimately leads to his downfall.

Oedipus' tragic flaw is his ignorance of his true identity. Unbeknownst to him, he is the murderer of his own father and the husband of his own mother. As the play unfolds, Oedipus gradually uncovers the truth, leading to a series of devastating revelations that shatter his world. This knowledge becomes the catalyst for his self-destructive actions, culminating in his eventual suicide.

The Ambiguous Ending

When examining how Oedipus kills himself, it is essential to note the ambiguity surrounding the details of this event. Unlike many other tragic heroes, Oedipus' suicide is not explicitly described in the play. Instead, the audience is left to piece together clues and interpret the text to understand the nature of his death.

One interpretation suggests that Oedipus takes his own life by gouging out his eyes. This interpretation is supported by the dialogue between Oedipus and the Chorus in which Oedipus declares, "No more shall you look on the misery about me...nevermore shall you see those you longed to see" (Sophocles, lines 1419-1420). This graphic imagery symbolizes Oedipus' desire to blind himself to the horrors he has witnessed and committed.

Another interpretation suggests that Oedipus hangs himself. This view is based on the description of Oedipus' fate given by the Messenger, who states, "He twisted the gold pin of her brooch and struck his eyes again and again" (Sophocles, lines 1357-1358). The phrase "struck his eyes" could be interpreted as a metaphorical reference to Oedipus' suicide by hanging, as the act of striking implies a swift and forceful action.

The Psychological Motivation

Understanding how Oedipus kills himself is crucial, but it is equally important to explore the psychological motivations behind this dramatic act. Oedipus' suicide can be seen as a culmination of his internal struggle, as he grapples with the weight of his incestuous actions and the devastating consequences they have wrought.

Oedipus' decision to blind himself or hang himself can be seen as a form of self-punishment. By depriving himself of his sight or his life, Oedipus seeks to atone for the sins he has committed. This act of self-inflicted violence can also be viewed as an attempt to regain control over his life, as Oedipus realizes the extent to which he has been a pawn in the hands of fate.

Implications and Further Exploration

The manner in which Oedipus kills himself holds significant implications for the overall understanding of the play and its themes. Oedipus' suicide highlights the tragic nature of his character and emphasizes the consequences of his actions. It serves as a reminder that even the most powerful and intelligent individuals are subject to the forces of destiny.

Further exploration of this topic could involve a comparative analysis of Oedipus' suicide with other tragic heroes in Greek mythology. By examining the similarities and differences in their self-inflicted deaths, a deeper understanding of the cultural and literary significance of Oedipus' suicide can be gained.


In conclusion, the question of how Oedipus kills himself is one that invites interpretation and speculation. Whether he blinds himself or hangs himself, Oedipus' suicide serves as the culmination of his tragic journey, a journey fraught with self-discovery and devastating revelations. By exploring the psychological motivations behind this act and its implications for the play as a whole, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities and enduring power of Sophocles' timeless tragedy.

Works Cited

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Sophocles. "Oedipus Rex." Translated by F. Storr. The Internet Classics Archive, edited by Daniel C. Stevenson, MIT, Accessed 15 Nov. 2021.

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How Did Oedipus Kill Himself. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“How Did Oedipus Kill Himself.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
How Did Oedipus Kill Himself. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
How Did Oedipus Kill Himself [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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