Oedipus the King: The Decline of Oedipus

Oedipus the King: The Decline of Oedipus

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The Decline of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex


  Oedipus began Oedipus Rex as a king, only to end the tale as a blinded beggar.  Oedipus' fall from his kingly status was not by accident or because of some other person.  Oedipus is the only one that can be blamed for his misfortune.  Oedipus' character traits are shown most clearly during his spiraling downfall, thinking he is "a simple man, who knows nothing", yet knowing more than he realizes by the end of the story.

            Throughout the story, Oedipus' haste or lack of patience is most evident.  Wishing to end this mystery of the death of Laios as quickly as possible, Oedipus passes an edict to kill or exile anyone who withholds information.  Teiresias tested Oedipus' patience in the beginning of the story with the information he was holding; "You'd try a stone's patience!

Out with it". This impatient accusing of Teiresias proved to be bad, especially since Teiresias foretold the ending of the story.  If Oedipus had been more patient and waited, he might have not been quite so upset about the future, nor shaken up about what was to happen.

            However, that one trait did not alone take away his position of high authority.  Oedipus displayed anger throughout the whole story, which did not help him at all.  During the story, we learn of Oedipus' anger as he knocked a passerby at the meeting of the three highways; "I struck him in my rage".  Later, this passerby whom he angrily and quickly killed, was revealed to be Laios, Oedipus' father.  Oedipus' anger also quickly shifted his judgment of Teiresias.  "We are in your [Teiresias] hands. There is no fairer duty", Oedipus' respect for Teiresias quickly changed as Teiresias refused to tell of what was the trouble's cause.  Oedipus began claiming that "Creon has brought this decrepit fortune teller" to mean that Teiresias was thought of as a traitor in Oedipus' thinking.  Oedipus' anger is also shown as he begins to insult Teiresias by calling him a "wicked old man".  Oedipus' anger throughout the beginning of the play hindered himself.

            The final trait that was Oedipus' greatest enemy throughout the entirety of the play was his own truthfulness.  Whenever new facts presented themselves, Oedipus gave them an honest look.  As soon as it was suspect that Oedipus was involved, he acknowledged it; "I think that I myself may be accurst by my own ignorant edict".

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  Oedipus never held back any evidence pointing to his possible future eviction and loss of his kingly status.  As the plot grew to the uppermost point, Oedipus persisted testimony of the shepherd as he was "of dreadful hearing, yet he must hear" more.  This trait was the binding trait that brought Oedipus' downfall.  If Oedipus hid all the facts concerning himself, he could have easily buried this as nobody would know that he killed his father nor slept with his mother.

            The decline of Oedipus' power was initiated by his traits of anger, haste, and truthfulness. Inevitably, the decline of power led to the plucking of his own eyes – as fortold by Teiriseas

A blind man, who has his eyes now…Brother and father--the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband—the very same who came to his father’s bed, wet with his father’s blood. (Sophocles, 442-448)
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