Tiresias in Oedipus Tyrannus

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Tiresias is a major character in many of Sophocles’ tragedies. He is the old seer of Thebes who has been given immortality. In Oedipus, he is the only man who is aware of the fact that Oedipus has killed his father and married his mother. He is a man of great learning and self-respect. He retorts back in anger when Oedipus calls him a traitor and a villain. He warns Oedipus to be careful, as he himself will be responsible for his own ruin. In Sophoclean tragedies, Tiresias represents ancient wisdom and knowledge. He is endowed with immortality that symbolizes the eternal nature of wisdom and knowledge. Through him, Sophocles states the point that the individual who fails to recognize this knowledge and respect the wisdom will ultimately come to a tragic end like Oedipus. Tiresias also represents the people’s faith in divine laws. He is the seer and like the Delphic oracle is viewed skeptically by Jocasta. But ultimately, the faith in him and the oracle is reaffirmed as the tragedy reaches its conclusion. Tiresias is more than human as he can look into the future. Sophocles uses this character to explore Oedipus’ character flaws. In the dialogue between Tiresias and Oedipus, Oedipus is revealed to be obstinate, short-tempered and impervious to the truth as when Tiresias tells him that “you blame my temper but you do not see that which lives within you.” Throughout this scene, Tiresias reveals the truth of what’s causing the plague and Oedipus refuses to listen. He is only enamored with his own perceptions.
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