Cadmus: 3 theories illustrated with Theban Saga


1) Levi-Strauss (binary oppositions). inherent contradictions,

Love/Hate in Family; Man/Monster


Cadmus in search of Europa  (LH)

Slays the dragon...becomes the dragon  (MM)

Daughters marked by  family violence: Agave  beheading Pentheus  (LH)

Descendants, Labdacus (the lame), Laius (the left)  (MM)

Laius weds  Jocasta, warned  against his son  (LH)

Oedipus (swollen  foot)  (MM)

 slays Laius  marries Jocasta   (LH)

Oedipus blinds himself   (MM)

          His sons kill each other   (LH)



Over time myth/saga evolves: inherent contradictions rationalized for moral principle but in the beginning not a lesson  but a puzzle.


2)  Freud:  Aside from the familiar 'Oedipus complex' note:

the conflict of father and son, an obsessive pattern in early myth, also illustrates Freud's theory about the primal horde:

early man plagued by guilt and fear of 'the father'; Oedipus in exile visited by son who begged his blessing; at his death O is worshipped as hero-spirit.


3) Burkert:  socio-biology of 'the scapegoat', applied to Oedipus  (my illustration).

 Burkert would say that classic scapegoat stories are rooted in our paleolithic ancestry: the early tribe in crisis (beset by predators or enemies) must sometimes sacrifice one among them to save the rest.

Sophocles' play promotes the idea that Oedipus is taking on the guilt of the whole community (who have harbored the killer of their king).  He is ultimately driven out to rid the community of the plague that gods have sent in punishment.