Oedipus The King
In Greek mythology the oracles or gods are rarely wrong in their predictions of
the future. Yet the characters still try to fight the predictions. Do their
personalities and traits decide their future, or does fate take its course no
matter what? Oedipus was a shrewd man furnished with wit and intellect, yet his
lack of insight (the ability to see and understand clearly the inner nature of
himself) and his arrogance led to his demise, not fate.
Oedipus’s aret? (an
exceptional ability or gift) was unravelling riddles, and solving any puzzles
with ease. He had a surplus of the aptitude to look outward, but unfortunately
he had a deficiency of the ability to look inward. This talent of looking
outward made him renowned for deciphering riddles and mysteries. Yet when
Tiresias appears and speaks in riddles, Oedipus cannot solve them because of his
lack of insight.
Tiresias’s riddles are clear in what they state, but Oedipus
cannot understand them because he doesn’t know himself well enough. Tiresias
conveys, All ignorant! And I refuse to link my utterance with a downfall such as
yours.(Pg.42) At this point in the play, Oedipus still cannot perceive who the
murderer of King Laius is, even though the riddle is obvious.
Oliver 2 Oedipus
has the ability to comprehend the riddles, but he won’t allow himself to accept
the truth. When Oedipus saved Thebes from The Sphinx, he answered this difficult
puzzle. The Sphinx demanded, What creature is it that walks on four feet in the
morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening? With his eminent mastery
of riddles and having an open mind, Oedipus replied, It is Man. As a child he
crawls on four.
When he grows up he walks upright on his two feet, and in old
age he leans on a staff.1 This puzzle is far more complex than Tiresias’s
rudimentary riddles, so Oedipus has the ability to solve the riddles but cannot
let himself do so, because of his pomposity. Oedipus is so arrogant that he
can’t believe that he could possibly have done anything wrong. He suffered from
the sin of hubris.
That is, he was very vain, and conceited. No matter how
straightforward Tiresias’s riddles were, Oedipus’s pride wouldn’t let him solve
them. Finally, Tiresias came right out and said what he meant without a riddle,
and Oedipus still couldn’t accept that he did anything wrong. Tiresias simply
stated, I say, you murdered the man whose murderer you require.
Following that remark from Tiresias, Oedipus shielded himself by accusing his
brother in law, Creon (his uncle in reality), of forcing these insinuations from
Tiresias. Of course, this wasn’t true, it was just a classic example of
Oedipus’s arrogance trying to defend itself. Oedipus’s expiration was caused
simply because of his arrogance and his lack of self knowledge.
understand himself well enough. He could unravel any mystery besides Oliver 3
his own existence. All of his life Oedipus had solved mysteries and puzzles
about subjects other than himself. Now that he was faced with riddles accusing
him of something, his own arrogance kept him from the truth.
Oedipus would have
solved Tiresias’s riddles instantaneously if it weren’t for his pride, and lack
of insight. Finally, the truth is forced on Oedipus with outstanding evidence,
presented by the messenger, and the shepherd, so he must accept his destiny. Was
he not able to solve Tiresias’s riddles because his arrogance wouldn’t allow him
to, or did he recognize the answers immediately, his vanity not allowing him to
acknowledge the truth?