Who killed Laius? On Sophocles' enigmatic message

Beatriz Priel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Using Laplanche's basic conceptualisation of the role of the other in unconscious processes, the author proposes a reading of Sophocles' tragedy, Oedipus the King, according to basic principles of dream interpretation. This reading corroborates contemporary literary perspectives suggesting that Sophocles' tragedy may not only convey the myth but also provide a critical analysis of how myths work. Important textual inconsistencies and incoherence, which have been noted through the centuries, suggest the existence of another repressed story. Moreover the action of the play points to enigmatic parental messages of infanticide and the silencing of Oedipus's story, as well as their translation into primordial guilt, as the origins of the tragic denouement. Oedipus's self-condemnation of parricide follows these enigmatic codes and is unrelated to, and may even contradict, the evidence offered in the tragedy as to the identity of Laius's murderers. Moreover Sophocles' text provides a complex intertwining of hermeneutic and deterministic perspectives. Through the use of the mythical deterministic content, the formal characteristics of Sophocles' text, mainly its complex time perspective and extensive use of double meaning, dramatise in the act of reading an acute awareness of interpretation. This reading underscores the fundamental role of the other in the constitution of unconscious processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-443
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychoanalysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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