Vision And Blindness In Oedipus Tyrannus By Sophocles

988 words - 4 pages

The play Oedipus Tyrannus, written by Sophocles, is a play filled with symbols and irony involving the aspect of both vision and blindness. This aspect of the novel takes on an important role in the life of Oedipus, the ruler of Thebes. He originally feels as though he knows and sees everything, nevertheless, as the motto of the Oracle at Delphi states, he does not "know thyself," as he will find out toward the end of the play. The notion of seeing and blindness becomes an important and ironic symbol in the tragic fall of Oedipus, a man who could not escape his lot or moira.
Initially, Oedipus is a confident leader who believes he is educated and knows the truth about himself and the land he presides over, Thebes. This is because he was proclaimed the most famous man alive as a result of his answering the Sphinx’s riddle to save Thebes from a tragic epidemic. However, at the beginning of the play there is another plague causing grief to the members of Thebes, and Oedipus goes so far as to say that he will stop at nothing to rid Thebes of this pollution. He states, "Each of you grieves for himself alone, while my heart must bear the strain of sorrow for all--myself and you and all our city’s people. No I am not blind to it," (p.4). Yet in essence he is blind to it because he is the indirect cause for the epidemic in Thebes. Oedipus finds out that the cause for the Epidemic is that nobody came forth as an avenger in the murder of King Laius. Oedipus then states, "I shall not cease until I bring the truth to light. Apollo has shown, and you have shown, the duty which we owe the dead," (p.5). This is ironic in that Oedipus vows to make the truth come to light so that everybody can see it, including himself. Moreover, this is symbolic because Apollo is god of light and vision, the exact characteristics Oedipus believes he has but actually needs.
Another instance in the play where sight and blindness become an issue is when Oedipus sends to see the prophet Teiresias, second only to Apollo. Teiresias is physically blind and Oedipus holds this against Teiresias. He goes so far as to state, "Your ears are deaf, your eyes are blind, your mind—your mind is crippled!" (p.10). This nonetheless is quite ironic for Oedipus is mentally blind. He is unaware of who he is. Oedipus is the murderer of his father, husband and lover to his mother, and brother to his children. Teiresias responds to Oedipus’ accusation. "I tell you this, since you mock my blindness. You have eyes, Oedipus, and do not see your own destruction. You have eyes and do not see what lives with you… Then darkness will shroud...

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