The Riddle of the Sphinx

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 376
  • Published : October 24, 2011
Open Document
Text Preview
“What creature goes on four feet in the morning, on two at noonday, on three in the evening?” To some, this riddle would seem impossible However, to Oedipus, the answer was simple. “Man,” he answered. “In childhood he creeps on hands and feet; in manhood he walks erect; in old age he helps himself with a staff.” Ironically, this riddle pertains to Oedipus in a metaphorical sense. Oedipus has a lowly start, rises to power, and, in the end, he walks with a staff.

“In childhood, he creeps on hands and feet.” As a baby, Oedipus was thrown into mountains so both he and his father would avoid their fates. However, he was saved and passed on from shepard to shepard until he's finally adopted by Polybus. Later, when Oedipus learns of Apollo's prophecy, he runs from Corinth to Thebes, where he answers the Sphinx's riddle. Oedipus has a lowlystart, and it could be said that he crawls up until the Sphinx's riddle to get by in life. Oedipus encounters the Sphinx with nothing to lose and nothing to prove.

“In manhood, he walks erect.” After Oedipus answers the Sphinx's riddle, the Sphinx kills herself, Thebes is safe again, and Oedipus becomes king. He rises, or stands, into power and he abuses it a little bit.. This is the standing part of his life, when he walks with pride and dignity. This period of his life lasts until he questions his past..

“In old age, he helps himself with a staff.” When Oedipus talks to the blind prophet Tiresius, he admonishes him for not telling him of his past or who murdered Laius, who was the king previous. Then, he investigates his origins on his own, only to discover that he killed his father and married his mother. This angers Oedipus so much that he gauges his own eyes. As a result, he's blinded and he has to walk with a staff to guide him.

The Sphinx's riddle was a metaphor of Oedipus' life, and Sophocles put it in the play as an ironic foreshadowing. The riddle describes the rise and fall of Oedipus. He crawled, rose to power, and...
tracking img