Oedipus The KingIn Greek mythology the oracles or gods are rarely wrong in their predictions ofthe future. Yet the characters still try to fight the predictions. Do theirpersonalities and traits decide their future, or does fate take its course nomatter what? Oedipus was a shrewd man furnished with wit and intellect, yet hislack of insight (the ability to see and understand clearly the inner nature ofhimself) and his arrogance led to his demise, not fate. Oedipus’s aret? (anexceptional ability or gift) was unravelling riddles, and solving any puzzleswith ease.
He had a surplus of the aptitude to look outward, but unfortunatelyhe had a deficiency of the ability to look inward. This talent of lookingoutward made him renowned for deciphering riddles and mysteries. Yet whenTiresias appears and speaks in riddles, Oedipus cannot solve them because of hislack of insight. Tiresias’s riddles are clear in what they state, but Oedipuscannot understand them because he doesn’t know himself well enough. Tiresiasconveys, All ignorant! And I refuse to link my utterance with a downfall such asyours.
(Pg. 42) At this point in the play, Oedipus still cannot perceive who themurderer of King Laius is, even though the riddle is obvious. Oliver 2 Oedipushas the ability to comprehend the riddles, but he won’t allow himself to acceptthe truth. When Oedipus saved Thebes from The Sphinx, he answered this difficultpuzzle. The Sphinx demanded, What creature is it that walks on four feet in themorning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening? With his eminent masteryof riddles and having an open mind, Oedipus replied, It is Man.
As a child hecrawls on four. When he grows up he walks upright on his two feet, and in oldage he leans on a staff. 1 This puzzle is far more complex than Tiresias’srudimentary riddles, so Oedipus has the ability to solve the riddles but cannotlet himself do so, because of his pomposity. Oedipus is so arrogant that hecan’t believe that he could possibly have done anything wrong. He suffered fromthe sin of hubris. That is, he was very vain, and conceited.
No matter howstraightforward Tiresias’s riddles were, Oedipus’s pride wouldn’t let him solvethem. 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 simplystated, I say, you murdered the man whose murderer you require. (Pg. 37)Following that remark from Tiresias, Oedipus shielded himself by accusing hisbrother in law, Creon (his uncle in reality), of forcing these insinuations fromTiresias. Of course, this wasn’t true, it was just a classic example ofOedipus’s arrogance trying to defend itself.
Oedipus’s expiration was causedsimply because of his arrogance and his lack of self knowledge. He didn’tunderstand himself well enough. He could unravel any mystery besides Oliver 3his own existence. All of his life Oedipus had solved mysteries and puzzlesabout subjects other than himself. Now that he was faced with riddles accusinghim of something, his own arrogance kept him from the truth.
Oedipus would havesolved Tiresias’s riddles instantaneously if it weren’t for his pride, and lackof insight. Finally, the truth is forced on Oedipus with outstanding evidence,presented by the messenger, and the shepherd, so he must accept his destiny. Washe not able to solve Tiresias’s riddles because his arrogance wouldn’t allow himto, or did he recognize the answers immediately, his vanity not allowing him toacknowledge the truth?