Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
I believe that Oedipus the king was initially in denial regarding the heinous crimes he was accused of committing. He was too vain, as he had vanquished the sphinx monster by solving the riddle and he was appointed as the new king of Thebes. He thought himself to be too wise and just to have done such atrocities. Having not known his true origins he was living a lie.
In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is initially portrayed to be heroic. One of his main tragic flaws is pride. He refused to heed Teiresias’ remarks and advice. Turned away his oracle as opposed to taking his word for truth. “Mock my excellence, but you will find out I am truly great” – Oedipus (Oedipus the King) (435) Oedipus deeply cares about others. Oedipus, both as a person, as well as a King has many favourable qualities. When he initially learns of the foreseen prophecy that stated he was to grow up and murder his father and then marry his mother he was in denial at first, and then became torn between his desire to punish himself and his shock at his own actions. This is indicator that Oedipus was indeed a good man who would not accept to escape the consequences of this terrible prophecy. It is apparent that Oedipus truly cares for his new kingdom and its people. This was an exhibit of Oedipus’ honest character, a major attribute of his favourable qualities as king.
The thematic structure of this play revolves around an established tragedy; in which Oedipus was the very core of his kingdoms misfortune. He was the killer he was seeking, he was the root of evil in this narrative. Initially, Oedipus’s parents, who believed that oracle’s prediction that the kings son will murder his father and marry his mother. But if they had in fact truly really believed it the certainty of the prophecy how would it have been possible that they thought that even taking drastic measures could avoid it or prevent it from happening. In here lies the problem , all of these characters clearly believed the prediction enough to take drastic measures to avoid it, meaning they believed it could not be avoided through human will. It is as though they believed the prophesy as much as they believed they could avoid it–but if they believed they could avoid it, does this mean that in reality fate was really solely responsible for the series of events? Particularly in Oedipus’s case, why would it not have been sufficient not to just be very cautious not to kill a man. Then marry a woman whose history you do not know? “TEIRESIAS Well, it will come what will, though I be mute. OEDIPUS Since come it must, thy duty is to tell me. TEIRESIAS I have no more to say; storm as thou willst, And give the rein to all thy pent-up rage. (341-347)” Here Teiresias insists that, whatever Odeipus may do or say, his prophesied fate will play itself out.
Oedipus the king took advisory from the Chorus Teiresias and his subjects. This shows the political hierarchy is though robust, it is not impenetrable. He is however torn between his duty to save his kingdoms well as his disbelief in the horrific acts he had committed. He submits to his honourable side of himself in the end. This act shows how Oedipus the king and his duty towards his people won over Odeipus the person, and his love for himself. This is considered a large shift considering his deep rooted vanity.
The role of sight and blindness plays a core role in the theme of this play. It is used both figuratively and literally. Looking at his figurative blindness towards his immoral acts as accused by Teiresias, how he refused to believe in the priests accusations. His literal sight kept him figuratively blind to his actions. As well as his literal (self-inflicted) blindness in the end of the play. He gauges his own eyes out in self punishment as a result of his blindness of mind. Here his figurative sight gave way to his literal blindness.
“Whoever he is, a lone man unknown in his crime – or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step – I curse myself as well … if by any chance He proves to be an intimate of our house, Here at my hearth, with my full knowledge, May the curse I just called down on him strike me!” (Oedipus the King). Oedipus’s initially favourable character traits of vanity and pride, in addition to his intense determination to uncover the mystery of Laius’s murder ironically lead him to unknowingly curse himself. The irony here is portrayed in how despite the important role of fate in the life of Oedipus, he is driven by his intense pride and determination, at times stubbornly, to pursue his goals in identifying the murderer and punishing him.
His determination proves to be more of a weakness than a blessing for Oedipus, when he discovers he is the perpetrator he seeks. His vanity and pride are tested, and come at a loss when he punishes himself for his foul acts.
In this play Self knowledge is portrayed both on Delphi’s temple, and throughout the play. It makes reference to how despite Oedipus’ self proclaimed wisdom, he was still blind, and had no knowledge of himself. His inability to reach self awareness , or “sight” until the end showed a lack of self knowledge.