It is argued that Freud’s analysis of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex should be read in the context of his Interpretation of Dreams. There it figures in the chapter on typical dreams of the death of beloved persons, dreams from which Freud infers a murderous desire directed to the father. Later, Freud admitted that this view involved his own reaction to the death of his father. For Freud, the latter constitutes the most importance experience in a man’s life. From then onwards however, the theme of the murder of the father is revealed as a fantasm that hides the castration of the father with which the son is confronted when his own father dies. With reference to the hellenistic commentaries on Oedipus Rex, a Lacanian interpretation of the tragedy is proposed. It is argued that Oedipus Rex is the tragedy of the subject and his responsibility when Mythical discourse was replaced by the Master discourse, in which the Master figures both as father of a castrated reality and as mythical father who escapes castration. Castration consists precisely of the loss of jouissance introduced by the Master discourse. Eventually it is argued that, for Lacan, the castration complex comes down to the truth of the Oedipus complex.
The story of Oedipus has been used throughout the ages in a variety of ways, by both artists and scholars. In this paper, the author highlights the host of aspects and motives which have turned this story into a myth, a tragedy and a very popular literary model in Western cultural history. As a myth, it can be read horizontally or vertically, synchronically or diachronically, and on the basis of either a masculine or a feminine imagination. It is argued that when it is read as just proof of the Oedipus complex, as Freud did, many equally important aspects are ignored. But whatever the interpretation we give to the story of Oedipus, it remains a construction told by men for men, a myth of male truth.
It is argued that, originally, archaic desire for the mother and hate for the father, i.e., the feelings referred to by Freudian psychoanalysis in its theory of the Oedipus complex, were not implied in the Greek myth. Having defined (i) the latter as a complex and historically derived conglomerate of variants of one and the same narrative, and (ii) tragedy as such, an overview is sketched of the principal variants of the Oedipus myth. Moreover, several interpretations are confronted and it is argued that, from a philological point of view, Freud’s interpretation cannot be supported.