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Chapter 1.2

HIS 104 Chapter 1.2: HIS 104 Chapter 1.: King Oedipus (Part 2)


Department
History
Course Code
HIS 104
Professor
Daniel J. Gargola
Chapter
1.2

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~ King Oedipus ~
Part 2
Summary
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
knowledge.
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
murderer.
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
patronage.
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
Tiresias come.
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 hes
concocting fantasies, but Oedipus is resolute in his conclusions and his fury.
Analysis
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
Sphinx.
o Neither quality is now helping Oedipus to see the truth.
o In this section, the characteristic swiftness of Oedipuss though, words, and action begins to work
against him.
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