HIS 104 Chapter 1.2: HIS 104 Chapter 1.: King Oedipus (Part 2)
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~ King Oedipus ~
o A boy leads in the blind prophet Tiresias.
o Oedipus begs him to reveal who Laius’s murderer is, but Tiresias answers only that he
knows the truth but wishes he did not.
▪ Puzzled at first, then angry, Oedipus insists that Tiresias tell Thebes what he knows.
▪ Provoked by the anger and insults of Oedipus, Tiresias begins to hint at his
▪ Finally, when Oedipus furiously accuses Tiresias of the murder, Tiresias tells
Oedipus that Oedipus himself is the curse.
• Oedipus dares Tiresias to say it again, and so Tiresias calls Oedipus the
• The king criticized Tiresias’s powers wildly and insults his blindness, but
Tiresias only responds that the insults will eventually be turned on Oedipus
by all of Thebes.
▪ Driven into a fury of accusation, Oedipus proceeds to concoct a story that Creon and
Tiresias are conspiring to overthrow him.
o The leader of the Chorus asks Oedipus to calm down, but Tiresias only taunts Oedipus further, saying
that the king does not even know who his parents are.
o This statement both infuriates and intrigues Oedipus, who asks for the truth of his
▪ Tiresias answers only in riddles, saying that the murderer of Laius will turn out to
be both brother and father to his children, both son and husband to his bother.
o The characters exit and the Chorus takes the stage, confused and unsure whom to believe.
▪ They resolve that they will not believe any of these accusations against Oedipus
unless they are shown proof.
o Creon enters, soon followed by Oedipus.
o Oedipus accuses Creon of trying to overthrow him, since it was he who recommended that
o Creon asks Oedipus to be rational, but Oedipus says that he wants Creon murdered.
▪ Both Creon and the leader of the Chorus try to get Oedipus to understand that he’s
concocting fantasies, but Oedipus is resolute in his conclusions and his fury.
o As in Antigone, the entrance of Tiresias signals a crucial turning point in the plot.
o But in King Oedipus, Tiresias also serves an additional role:
▪ His blindness augments the dramatic irony that governs the play.
o Tiresias is blind but can see the truth; Oedipus has his sight but cannot.
o Oedipus claims that he longs to know the truth; Tiresias says that seeing the truth only
brings one pain.
▪ In addition to this unspoken irony, the conversation between Tiresias and Oedipus
is filled with references to sight and eyes.
• As Oedipus grows angrier, he taunts Tiresias for his blindness, confusing
physical sight and insight, or knowledge.
• Tiresias matches Oedipus insult for insult, mocking Oedipus for his eyesight
and for the brilliance that once allowed him to solve the riddle of the
o Neither quality is now helping Oedipus to see the truth.
o In this section, the characteristic swiftness of Oedipus’s though, words, and action begins to work
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