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(1950). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXIX, 1948. Psychoanal Q., 19:610.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:610

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXIX, 1948

The 'Passing of the Oedipus Complex' in Greek Drama. Mark Kanzer. Pp. 131–134.

Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles' sequel to the Oedipus Rex which has played such a significant role in the history of psychoanalysis, deals with the last days of the Theban hero. After his self-inflicted blindness, the culmination of the tragic events wherein he was unwittingly driven to parricide and incest, the career of Oedipus does not come to an end. For years he wanders through the countryside, shunned and abhorred by all men, his only companion his faithful daughter Antigone. Finally he finds peace and death at Colonus, a suburb of Athens.

Analysis of Oedipus at Colonus reveals an integral relationship to the problems of the earlier play. Where the Theban monarch had dominated the action in his youth by arrogance and defiance of conventions, in his later years he becomes the champion of existing forms of religion and law. A psychological identification with his slain father has taken place and in his turn the ageing man curses his own rebellious sons. Details of the play show an undoing mechanism at work by which Oedipus repeats the earlier events of his life, but now with renunciation rather than gratification of his desires.

This change in attitude is compared to the transition which takes place in the child as he surrenders his Oedipal goals under the threat of the castration complex. Sophocles' drama is interpreted as revealing the transformation of Oedipus after his death into the wise and beneficent figure of Theseus, Duke of Athens; psychologically, this represents the evolution from the narcissism of the child to the sublimated and socialized behavior patterns of successful maturation after the passing of the Oedipal phase of development.

Pertinent aspects of the play from the standpoint of Sophocles' own life and the history of contemporary Athens are noted.


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