tragic discovery of Oedipus that he has killed his father and married
his mother. The story of Oedipus was well known to the athenian's.
Oedipus is the embodiement of the perfect Athenian. He is
self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed. Ironically these are the
very traits which bring about his tragic discovery. Oedipus gained
the rule of Thebes by answering the riddle of Sphinx. Sophocles
used the riddle of the sphinx as a metaphor for the 3 phases of
Oedipus' life and to further
characterized him as a tragic man.
The Sphinx posed the following riddle to all who came to obtain the
rule of thebes: "What is it that walks on 4 feet and 2 feet and 3 feet
and has only one voice, when it walks on most feet it is the
weakest?" Oedipus correctly answered "Man" and became the king
of Thebes. This riddle is a metaphor for the life of Oedipus. As a
child man crawls on his hands and knees this is the four feet to
which the Sphinx refers. Also man is at his weakest as a small child.
He depends solely on others for his nourishment and well being.
Oedipus was the child of Jocasta and King Laius who was taken to
the mountain by a shepard to be killed so the omen of the god
apollo that Laius' son would kill him and lay with Jocasta would not
come true. Oedipus was the weakest of his life at this point. If it has
not been for the shepard spairing his life and giving him to Polybus
to raise as his own Oedipus would have died.
Man walks on 2 feet when he has matured. This is a metaphor for
Oedipus when he reaches adulthood and leaves Corinth to escape
the oracle. Oedipus meets up with a band of travelers and in a rage
kills them. Inadvertently Oedipus has killed his own father. Oedipus
then answers the riddle of the sphinx and becomes king of Thebes.
By becoming king of Thebes he marries Jocasta the Queen of thebes...