Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex deals with the insatiable human need knowledge, most importantly the need for self-knowledge. In this case, the knowledge Oedipus craves will unknowingly and ultimately destroy him. He is so invested in figuring out why Thebes has fallen ill, who killed Laius, and where he comes from that he goes against the counseling of his wife, Creon, the servants, and the people of Thebes.
At the beginning of the play, Oedipus 's only concern is why there is a sudden plague in the city of Thebes. The priest begs of Oedipus to save the city. Oedipus sends Creon to Delphi, the temple of Apollo. There, the truth will be revealed to Creon as to why the city has fallen ill. When Creon arrives, he reiterates what the oracle told him, “The god commands us to expel from the land of Thebes an old defilement we are sheltering. It is a deathly thing, beyond cure; we must not let it feed upon us longer.” Dumbfounded by this statement, Oedipus questions what defilement could possibly be in his beloved kingdom. When Creon explains that the the murderer of King Laius still lives in the city, Oedipus decrees that he will do everything he can to find the murderer and bring him to justice. Oedipus does not realize that he has begun a hunt for himself, for he unknowingly killed King Laius.
Afterwards, Oedipus has several witnesses come forth to try and put together the mystery that is Laius’ death. He first brings forth Teiresias, a blind clairvoyant, in hopes that he can reveal the truth. When Teiresias refuses to reveal the truth even after Oedipus 's threatening and pleading, Teiresias answers by saying, “You are all ignorant. No; I will never tell you what I know. Now it is my misery; then, it would be you...
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...eyes for he cannot bear to deal with the horrors of his doing.
Oedipus now knows of his disgusting truth and realizes what his children will have to go through. He begs of Creon to take care of his daughters for he knows that they will not fare well because no one will want to marry a woman whose parents were incestual. Creon agrees for he is good at heart. Creon forces Oedipus out just as Oedipus had promised earlier before his truth was revealed. Creon banishes Oedipus to exile saying, “Think no longer that you are in command here, but rather think how, when you were, you served your own destruction.”
The journey for the truth can be long and excruciating and sometimes could ultimately lead to self destruction just as Oedipus 's did. When others are counseling against further investigation, it might be best to listen. Sometimes the truth is better left unsaid.
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