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Oedipus the King Essay Example


In this study, a brief account of the character of ‘Oedipus’ has been discussed from a comparative viewpoint, as narrated and pictured in Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King”. Accordingly, a comparison of the characters, Oedipus and Tiresias (the antagonist in the play) has also been elaborated in this study.

“Oedipus the King” is a famous play written by Sophocles, wherein the protagonist character, Oedipus, also known as Oedipus Tyrannos or Oedipus Rex, is crowned as the new king of Thebes. He was a stranger to the country, succeeding Laius and marring his widow Jocasta with her four children. His coronation was in subsequence to his heroic deed to save the country from the Sphinx. The play gives a very detailed account of the unique and commendable characteristics of Oedipus, as a stranger who became the king of Thebes.

Oedipus is very curious by nature, as portrayed in the play. Unknown to his past life, Oedipus continuously ignores the truth that he is the killer of his biological father Laius and has incidentally married his biological mother after winning the throne of Thebes. The play narrates that Oedipus was stolen from Thebes and abandoned in the mountains in his childhood. On his journey back to Thebes, he killed his father Laius and married his mother with four children. These elements of the character indicate Oedipus’ blindness towards the truth. However, on the other hand, he is portrayed as a master riddle-solver. On arriving at Thebes, he proves his ability by solving the riddle of Sphinx and freeing the entire country from its captivating hands. This proves his worthiness to become a responsible king too (Berg 12).

If compared with the antagonist character of Tiresias, it can be observed that the actual blindness indicated in the play is not physical but it is rather metaphorical. Tiresias is introduced as a blind prophet, who is in his elder years and is respected as the soothsayer in the kingdom. Although Oedipus deciphers strong faith and belief on Tiresias, he ignores and refuses to accept the truth that he is the killer of his father and the husband of his biological mother. While on repeated occasions Tiresias indicates the savvy truth to Oedipus, the new king is consistently ignorant to accept it. It was in such circumstances that arguments heated up between Tiresias and Oedipus, leaving the new king to reveal and realize the truth himself, certainly to his utter dismay and agony. In the play, Tiresias says:

“I tell you, the man you have been seeking all this time, while proclaiming threats and issuing orders [450] about the one who murdered Laius — that man is here. According to reports, he is a stranger who lives here in Thebes. But he will prove to be a native Theban. From that change he will derive no pleasure. He will be blind, although he now can see. [550] He will be a poor, although he now is rich. He will set off for a foreign country, groping the ground before him with a stick. And he will turn out to be the brother of the children in his house—their father, too, both at once, and the husband and the son of the very woman who gave birth to them. He sowed the same womb as his father and murdered him.”

Comparing these two characters, differences between physical blindness and metaphorical blindness becomes clear. It is in this context that even though Oedipus could prove himself as a worthy king of Thebes, he failed to receive the everlasting warmth and loyalty of his countrymen. Above all, he was in pain and agony himself, but refused to accept so, giving himself a false relief from the shameful sin he had committed unknowingly. By the end of the play, Oedipus is left alone without his children, wife and the throne; thus proving what Tiresias had said to be the ultimate truth.

Works Cited
Berg, Stephen. Oedipus the King. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. Print.
Johnston, Ian. Sophocles Oedipus the King. Sophocles. (n.d.). Web. Accessed 19 September2014

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