Once blind, but Now he Sees:
Sight in Oedipus the King
Sophocles was a phenomenal writer that captivated his audience with a distinct charm still not yet duplicated by even the best of play-writers today. In Oedipus the King, a tale of dynamic proportions regarding a leader who falls from the throne of a city to the dark depths of is fate, Sophocles demonstrates great genius in that his writings require a substantial amount of intellectual involvement from his audience. (Helmbold) One of the frequently mentioned images driving the plot of the play is the concept of sight verses blindness. This motif of blindness in Oedipus the King is critical to the storyline and entire plot of the play. It allows Sophocles to toy with the definition of sight and create the basis upon which Oedipus' internal conflicts lead to his ironic demise. In the earlier scenes of the play, Sophocles is quick to establish the "paradox of sight" (Helmbold 38) in which the contrasting physical conditions of Tiresias and Oedipus are brought to the forefront. This intriguing contradiction between the two characters was that the blind seer had the capability of seeing Oedipus' destiny while Oedipus could see physically, but was ignorant of his own fate. Such a paradox brought to light the idea of physical sight having less of an importance in comparison to spiritual/intellectual sight. Simply put, the definition of sight, as defined by Sophocles, has much more to do with seeing spirituallyas Tiresias doesrather than the physical ability to seelike that of Oedipus. Sophocles uses Tiresias' character to capitalize on this idea as he tells the audience (through Tiresias) that Oedipus' lack of true sight will lead to his ruin. For instance, after Oedipus tests Tiresias' patience, Tiresias tells Oedipus a somewhat cryptic statement involving the parts of is fate he had not yet discovered: "You mock my blindness? Let me tell you this.
You with your precious eyes,
you're blind to the...
Cited: Fagles, Robert, trans. The Three Theban Plays. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 1982. 155-278.
Helmbold, W.C. "The Paradox of the Oedipus." The American Journal of Philology Vol. 80, no. 3, 1951: 293-300.
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