Free Study Guide for Oedipus the King by Sophocles|
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The arrival of Tiresias adds a new dimension to the plot and further adds to the dramatic irony in this episode. Tiresias is the only man who is aware that Oedipus is the murderer of Laius, his own father. Tiresias also knows that the ignorant Oedipus has married his own mother. He speaks the truth yet it is only the audience who knows that he is right.
According to Greek mythology, Tiresias was a prophet who had been granted powers of prediction by the Greek god, Apollo. However, his gift was limited by another god who proclaimed that his prophecies would not be believed. This is very well exemplified in Oedipus’ adamant refusal to believe what Tiresias says. Instead he responds by denouncing Tiresias’ abilities.
Tiresias is reluctant to reveal the dreadful secret that the murderer, whom Oedipus is seeking so desperately, is none other than Oedipus yet Oedipus’ hounding forces him to speak. An angry and arrogant Oedipus does not believe Tiresias and instead brands him a traitor. Nonetheless, these revelations by Tiresias introduce a new aspect of the play: Oedipus’ origins. When Tiresias says, “This day will show your birth,” he is commenting on Oedipus lack of knowledge of who he is. His comments that Oedipus is blind although he has his sight are prophetic for what is to come and reveal dramatic irony as it will only be when Oedipus is blind that he will be able to see.
An instance of the hamartia or the flaws in Oedipus’ character is presented here. He is not only scornful in dealing with an important authority like Tiresias when he does not say what Oedipus wants him to, but he also makes hasty and wrong judgments about the prophet and his brother-in-law. The accusations he hurls at Tiresias and Creon are absolutely unjustified and it is only natural for Tiresias to respond the way he does. Thus Sophocles shows the defects in an otherwise ideal ruler.
The first act ends with the first Stasimon. A chorus of Theban citizens voice concerns about the revelations of Tiresias. They are sure that Oedipus cannot be the murderer, thus, their faith in prophecies is seen as wavering. By presenting this, Sophocles brings into play the significance of prophecies in ancient Greece. The chorus ends with a prayer to Apollo.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Oedipus Rex/Oedipus the King".
. 09 May 2017