Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex has fascinated readers for over two millennia with its tale of a man who falls from greatness to shame. The enigmatic play leaves many questions for the reader to answer. Is this a cruel trick of the gods? Was Oedipus fated to kill his father and marry his mother? Did he act of his own free will? Like the Greeks of centuries past, we continue to ponder these perennial questions. Part of the genius of Sophocles is that he requires a great deal of mental and spiritual involvement from his audience.
The search for the truth behind the story involves all of the characters. There is hardly a scene or conversation in which the theme of sight and blindness is not in one way or another discussed and this is central to an understanding of the play. The meaning goes much deeper than might be suspected; it is easy to say that Tiresias is blind but can actually see and that Oedipus can see but is actually blind. While this is important, it is but the starting point. Within the theme of sight versus blindness, Sophocles explores the definition of sight, the concept of eyes being the direct pathway to the heart, and the importance of eye contact in order to show that sight and blindness reflect a deep search for truth and reality.
Exploration of the Definition of Sight
At the very beginning of the play, the audience recognizes that not only can Oedipus see in a physical sense, but also he has some unusual ability of perception (Bloom 33). The people of Thebes revere their king because he saved them from the Sphinx by solving the supposedly impossible riddle. It is only natural that they bring their problems to him again and expect that he will be able to save ...
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...ages his audience to investigate as Oedipus did and pursue the truth, fully accepting the consequences that follow.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.
Cameron, Alister. The Identity of Oedipus the King: Five Essays on the Oedipus Tyrranus. New York: New York University Press, 1968.
Dodds, E.R. “On Misunderstanding the ‘Oedipus Rex.” Greece and Rome April 1966: 37-49.
Helmbold, W.C. “The Paradox of the Oedipus.” The American Journal of Philology Vol. 80, no. 3, 1951: 293-300.
Kane, Robert L. “Prophecy and Perception in the Oedipus Rex.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 1975: 189-208.
Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” The Heath Introduction to Drama. Ed. Jordan Y. Miller. Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company, 1996. 29-72.
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