To What Extent is Oedipus Responsible for His Own Downfall

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Within the Greek tragedy play, Oedipus the King, Sophocles refers to sight and blindness to relate an outlook and knowledge of the past and Oedipus’ tragic flaws. The irony of sight in this play can be noticeable by Oedipus’ incompetence to register what is apparent to the audience. His tragic flaw, being his utmost pride and anger, blinds him from the truth. After being aware of the truth and the actions that he has committed it is clear that he is now able to apprehend the blemishes of his Hubris behavior and the negative results that his pride conducted.

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Evident at the beginning of the play, pride blinded Oedipus. Creon relays the message to Oedipus about the city of Thebes dying of a plaque. This showcases an instance where Oedipus hubris is manifested in which he is speaking with Creon about looking for the murderer of Laius, “Now that you have me to fight for you, you'll see: I am the land’s avenger by all rights, and Apollo's champion too... I'll rid us of this corruption...I defend myself” (Lines 154-160). Oedipus becomes conceited because he solved the riddle that many others couldn’t. Therefore, he thinks highly of himself which becomes a flaw further into the play because with this mindset he is unable to come to reality with killing the king himself. This instance plays a key role within the story for it showcases and displays Oedipus’ mentality.

Another tragic flaw that is exhibited is Oedipus’ anger which prevents him from understanding the truth about his fate earlier on within the play. Tiresias, a prophet that is able to relay the truth of someone’s fate from Apollo to people, is able to observe and capture the truth about who has killed Laius and the downfall of Oedipus. Even though he is blind which makes the situation quite ironic. Throughout the conversation between Oedipus and Tiresias, he will not divulge the information King Oedipus is longing to hear. After hearing of the prophecy Oedipus refuses to believe, “OEDIPUS: You think you can keep this up and never suffer? TIRESIAS: Indeed, if the truth has any power. OEDIPUS: It does but not for you, old man. You’ve lost your power, stone-blind, stone-deaf- senses, eyes blind as stone!” (Lines 420-424). Oedipus starts to call Tiresias names and tries to overpower him with his anger because he is not willing to agree with his prophecy. This enrages Oedipus and he blames him for the murder, and then for conspiring with Creon to take his throne. It also becomes ironic that Oedipus that he makes fun of Tiresias’ blindness when he is blind himself to the tragedies that he has committed and is unaware of.

Along with the situation with the prophet, his pride rises alongside his anger towards the prophet. Oedipus says “when did you ever prove yourself a prophet? When the Sphinx, that chanting Fury kept her deathwatch here, why silent then...I stopped the Sphinx! With no help from the birds, the flight of my own intelligence hit the mark. ” (Lines 443-446 & 452-423) This shows that he thinks himself greater than the prophet and in essence greater than the gods, still is just another example of how arrogant and conceited he is. He also brings up his victory with the Sphinx which, ultimately, clouds the truth even more because he, being a tragic hero, believes that he is doing something that is moral but can’t proceed. For he has been told the truth clearly but can’t see and is blinded by his tragic flaws as a tragic hero (pride and anger).

When all is said and done, Oedipus’ arrogant actions and blindness of his fate has ultimately caused his downfall. Also, contextually considering that Oedipus the King is a Greek tragedy it makes sense for why Oedipus has these tragic flaws along with a hubris attitude throughout the play. This is to the extent that Oedipus was responsible for his own downfall.


1.Sophocles., and Bernard Knox. Oedipus the King.. New York: Washington Square Press, 1959. Print.

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