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October 06, 2006

Laura's commentry on Oedipus

“Now he has eyes to see with, but they will be slashed out;
Rich and powerful now, he will be a beggar” (p.44 lines 25-26)

From the beginning of the play, the dramatic irony is that the audience already knows what will happen to Oedipus. Sophocles wrote this play, knowing his audience knows the story, to tell of the vulnerability and fallibility of all men, dispelling pity and terror for ourselves by invoking these emotions for Oedipus. Sophocles has taken a well known myth and used it as a medium to illustrate the fragileness of our human nature.
Sophocles’ audience would have known before the play ends that Oedipus would stab out his own eyes, and having Teiresias tell Oedipus he will be blind though Oedipus does not believe him increases the irony and the dramatic affect that Oedipus has been living his whole life blind to who he is. He has eyes to see and yet does not see; even with his sight, he is blind to the truth.
Then when Oedipus’ eyes are slashed out, as Teiresias prophesies, by his own hands, Oedipus has acknowledged his blindness and embodies this by physically blinding himself only after the truth is finally seen.

Posted by lacaga at October 6, 2006 01:38 PM


I really like how you have used the physical blindness that Oedipus inflicts on himself at the end of the play as a parallel to the theoretical blindness that he experiences throughout the entire play. When Teiresias gives the prophesy that Oedipus will have his eyes slashed out, he never mentions that it will be Oedipus himself that does the gruesome deed. I find this very interesting because, although the audience at the time would have known that it was self-inflicted, Oedipus does not know this from the prophesy. Also, Sophocles' play ends before we see if Oedipus will actually be a beggar or not, but the prophesy makes it so that we know this without the play itself dragging on to show us. I think that this was very well done because it allows the play to end at the scene with the most dramatic value rather than being forced to continue on to the actual "end" of the story.

Posted by: samlily at October 8, 2006 02:00 PM

You've provided an "explication" of the passage and done it quite welll, but please recall that a "close reading" also involves paying close attention to the structure and synatax of the passage itself.

Notice, for example, how both the sentences in the passage have a similar structure, each counterposing a future event ("will") with something in the present ("now"). By pointing out how different the future may be to the present, this passage is also pointing out to us how difficult it is to know who one is (a central theme of the play), for one's self constantly changes from the present to the future.

Posted by: bhattach at October 9, 2006 12:14 AM

I also agree with Sam in that it is very interesting how Teirisias predicted that Oedipus' eyes would be slashed out, but he never said that Oedipus would do it himself. By the end of the story Oedipus has played out the role that the gods gave him, but he regains strength by piercing his own eyes.

Teirisias also predicted that Oedipus would become a beggar, but it is Oedipus himself asks to be exiled from the city. He is, therefore, inflicting his own punishment through blinding himself and asking to be cast out of the city.

This quote compares the present Oedipus (rich and powerful) with the future Oedipus (blind and a beggar), and although Oedipus may have changed through experience, he still wants control (in the present and in the future).

Posted by: romie at October 9, 2006 01:44 PM

Your analysis of this passage is very insightful, especially when you mention how Oedipus literally blinds himself after he learns that the prophecy was right all along and that he was (in a non-literal sense) blind all this time to the reality in front of him. The passage creates a powerful contrast between what is “now” and what “will” happen. Word pairs such as “eyes” and slashed “as well as” rich and powerful “versus” beggar amplify this contrast. These words combat each other and create a sense of discordance which shows the reader how dramatically different the present and future can be, which in turn helps us to understand why Oedipus disregards Teiresias’ prophecy. He simply cannot believe how his life can change so much, and he doesn’t want to acknowledge the loss of control over his own life that would probably have to happen in order to alter the future in this way.

Posted by: monikade at October 9, 2006 04:52 PM

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