Have you ever had one of those days when it seems that everything is against you, that life could not look any bleaker than it does right now? We have all had moments like those, but nothing can compare to the feeling Oedipus had on that dreadful day when he found out that he was cursed by the gods, destined to kill his father and marry his mother. This tragic story of the cursed man is told in Sophocles' play, Oedipus the King. This essay will examine one of Oedipus' speeches, found in lines 1183 - 1194, made before he learns of his appalling fate. It is a passage full of dramatic irony. We, the audience, know the truth. Even Jocasta has just come to realize the facts, but Oedipus is still unaware of the impending doom.
Let it burst! Whatever will, whatever must!
I must know my birth, no matter how common
it may be-I must see my origins face-to-face.
She perhaps, she with her woman's pride
may well be mortified by my birth,
but I, I count myself the son of Chance,
the great goddess, giver of all good things-
I'll never see myself disgraced. She is my mother!
And the moons have marked me out, my blood brothers,
one moon on the wane, the next moon great with power.
That is my blood, my nature-I will never betray it,
never fail to search and learn my birth!
(Oedipus lines 1183-1194)
The passage begins with Oedipus crying, "Let it burst! Whatever will, whatever must! / I must know my birth, no matter how common / it may be-I must see my origins face-to-face" (lines 1183 - 1185). He is eager to know his past, no matter how ugly it may be. He believes the truth can be no worse than learning that he comes from a humbl...
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...ldren and siblings. Again, the audience knows the truth and wishes the opposite of what Oedipus persevered to discover. The reader wishes that he would indeed give up the search to find his true origins. It will only result in ending his life in horrific misery.
This short yet heartfelt speech made by Oedipus before he learns of his fate is packed with dramatic irony. He is blinded to the truth, but the readers are entirely aware of his dreadful fame. This makes the speech all the more painful and wrenching for the audience. Oh how we must pity a king like Oedipus, the cursed man. May what happened to him never happen to another.
Sophocles, Oedipus the King. Trans. Robert Fagles. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd ed. Vol. A. Ed. Sarah Lawall and Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 2002. 617-658.
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