English 1341 D
28 October 2011
The Blind Truth
Dramatic irony is strewn throughout Oedipus, stemming from Oedipus’ vehement quest to find out Lauis’s murderer, and his fate that is foreseen by the seer Tiresias. In addition, Oedipus’s constant search for the truth, and his unwavering to ability to not heed to the warnings constantly given to him by Tiresias and Creon. Oedipus’ supposed “sight” in the play and his coexisting “blindness” are both inherent to the development of Oedipus throughout the play. Sight and blindness are important themes in the play Oedipus the King, in the scene where Tiresias talks with Oedipus sight is meant to represent knowledge and blindness ignorance, but at the end of the play when Oedipus cuts out his eyes, Sophocles gives the two themes an inverse relationship and sight is meant to represent ignorance and blindness knowledge.
Oedipus believes himself to be a self-proclaimed “god”, and the root of it comes from his arrogance and blind ambition to seek the truth. While Tiresias and Oedipus argue at the beginning of the play, Oedipus bases his argument of why Tiresias is wrong about the fate of Thebes and its king on the fact that Tiresias is blind. Sophocles is trying to tell the audience that Oedipus believes his “sight” makes him wiser than the blind prophet. Therefore, during this scene, Sophocles makes sight coincide with knowledge and blindness, ignorance. Oedipus suspects Tiresias to be involved with the one who killed Lauis after he refuses to tell him what he knows about the plague and what lies in his future, and he says that if Tiresias, “had eyes” (20) he would, “suspect him of the very murder” (20). He tries to belittle Tiresias, and with doing so, he makes the connection between his sight and the knowledge he possesses, and the supposed ignorance of the prophet Tiresias. After Tiresias tells Oedipus that murderer he wishes to pursue, is in fact himself, Oedipus threatens Tiresias by asking him if he thinks he can, “go on blabbering unscathed” (21). The direct relationship Sophocles gives blindness and ignorance is magnified, again, by the condescending nature that Oedipus holds with regard to Tiresias. Sophocles utilizes dramatic irony to his advantage at this part of the play because the audience knows what Oedipus’ fate is, and the brash way he verbally attacks Tiresias shows that Oedipus is confident in his physical and mental superiority. To add insult to injury, Tiresias is hit with another verbal blow from the king of Thebes when he calls the blind prophet a, “night-hatched thing” (22), and that Tiresias cannot harm him, nor any, “man who lives in the light” (22). Oedipus has given up on reason, and he has turned to pure anger when addressing Tiresias. This sign of immaturity by Oedipus shows that audience that even though he possesses the ability to see, he is blind to the truth that Tiresias sets out for him. When Oedipus continually asks for the truth, Tiresias, already tired of the brazen attitude of the young king, reveals one part of the fate that leads to the destruction of Oedipus, which is that Oedipus, “and his dearly beloved, are wrapped together in a hideous sin, blind to the horror of it” (21). This is the last straw for Oedipus, and he resorts to insult to reinforce his intellectual dominance over the blind prophet. Oedipus even goes so far as to say that Creon and Tiresias are in cahoots with one another, and conspiring against him. The paranoia Oedipus develops in this part of the story marks the shift from the direct relationship between sight and knowledge, and the inverse relationship. Tiresias is a clairvoyant seer, who cannot see physically, but in regards to intellectually, possesses greater “sight”, or the ability to behold something with one’s eye, than Oedipus at the beginning of the play. It is not until later on in the play that Oedipus can come to grips with his own reality and how accurate Tiresias was in regards to...