According to Bernard Knox, “these attributes of divinity – knowledge, certainty, justice – are all qualities Oedipus thought he possessed – and that is why he was the perfect example of the inadequacy of human knowledge, certainty, and justice”. The lack of these qualities pushed Oedipus farther from the truth and closer to his great downfall. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Oedipus’ tragic downfall was caused by his alleged certainty of knowledge, his rash actions and judgment, and his unwavering sense for justice.
In Knox’s statement, he refers to Oedipus’ “inadequacy of human knowledge [and] certainty” as a cause of his downfall. Oedipus believed he possessed certainty of knowledge; however, his knowledge was based on false assumptions. During the search for Laius’ killer, his certainty led him to believe that he was innocent of the crime. As Teiresius proclaimed, “Alas, how dreadful to have wisdom where it profits not the wise!” (Sophocles 120). Oedipus’ false certainty caused him to disregard the all-knowing seer, Teiresius. Due to his certainty, Oedipus ignored wise advice and distanced himself further away from the truth.
Oedipus’ rash actions and judgment were derived from his certainty of knowledge, which fulfills Knox’s statement of Oedipus’ “inadequacy of . . . justice”. Oedipus rashly acted when he encountered an attack from a stranger on his way to Thebes. Not knowing that this man was his father Laius, Oedipus killed the stranger and most of his attendants, partially fulfilling the prophecy. Oedipus also rashly accused Teiresius and Creon of the murder. Creon states, “If you think that stubbornness without sense is a good gift you are not wise” (126). Oedipus, assuming he was not guilty, rashly judged and accused the innocent without substantial evidence. Oedipus’ accusations and rash judgment made himself unknowledgeable and unjust, pushing him towards a greater downfall.