The play Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, tells a horrendous tale about one man's quest for the truth. In the play, King Oedipus was burdened with the task of finding his predecessor's murderer so that order may be restored to his kingdom. While his conscious mind was seeking the murderer, his unconscious mind was retarding his progress in order to conceal the truth. Tiresias, prophesies the truth to Oedipus, but Oedipus's unconscious mind would not hear it. Thus, when the awful truth is finally revealed, Oedipus is overwhelmed by it. This causes the physical and emotional wounds that would last him a lifetime. A supplementary piece of literature, Tiresias by Tennyson, was written to complement this play. In Tennyson's poem, he told about a man who was touched by the Gods, when he reached the point of enlightenment in his life; this man is Tiresias. Through the study of Tennyson's Tiresias, one can better understand the play Oedipus Rex, Oedipus the character and one's self.
In Tiresias, the narrator speaks about his desire to be like his friend Fitz. The perception of Fitz given by Tennyson is that he was a very spiritual man touched by the Gods. Tennyson's first attempt to be like Fitz was to become a vegetarian:
And once for ten long weeks I tried
Your table of Pythagoras,
And seem'd at first "a thing enskied,"
As Shakespeare has it, airy-light
To float above the ways of men,
Then fell from that half-spiritual height
Chill'd, till I tasted flesh again
One night when the earth was winter-black,
And all the heavens flash'd in frost;
And on me, half-asleep, came back
That wholesome heat the blood had lost,
And set me climbing icy capes . . . (Tennyson, 14-...
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...ind's frailty consider his last day; and let none presume on his good fortune until he find life, at his death, a memory without pain." (Sophocles, 757) This imagery of peace and serenity causes one to strive for such enlightenment.
After an extensive examination of both works, one's understanding of Oedipus Rex the play, Oedipus the character, and one's self is heightened. One can better understand how Tiresias, Oedipus, and one's self are bound to the ways of the flesh. One also understands that in order to break free from the ways of man, one must reach enlightenment which is done when one is touched by the Gods.
Sophocles. "Oedipus Rex." Elements of Literature. Ed. Robert Scholes, Nancy R. Comley, Carl H. Klaus, and David Staines. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990. 714-757.
Tennyson. "Tiresias." ENGOA1 Handout.
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