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September 25, 2005

Ode to Oedipus

Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Up to Scene III) -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

Teiresias: "You were a great man once at solving riddles."

Oedipus: "Mock me with that if you like; you will find it true."

Teiresias: "It was true enough. It brought about your ruin."

Teiresias always speaks in riddles, and in some ways the whole play does. Details about each character's past and their connections to each other elude Oedipus, and in turn the reader. We only know whatever information Oedipus finds out, step by step revealing the truth, unlike some plays where we know something the main character doesn't.

How did Oedipus' ability to solve riddles bring about his ruin? Wouldn't it be his lack of ability?

Lorin talked about how Oedipus' pride could possibly lead to his downfall. Considering his (Oedipus') interaction with Teiresias, and outright denial of murder, has he grown too accustomed to solving life's riddles? We know that in the past he was able to solve problems, so maybe when this time he can't, he is unable to accept someone else's explanation, and not accepting the truth ruins him.

Posted by DavidDenninger at September 25, 2005 04:06 PM


I disagree. I think the audience constantly knows more than Oedipus. We already know how it's all going to play out. All we have to do is sit back and watch Oedipus work it out.

Oedipus's ability to solve riddles will bring about his ruin because he'll be determined to solve the riddle layed out by Teiresias:

"TEIRESIAS: Who are you father and mother? Care to tell me?
You do not even know the blind wrongs
That you have done them, on earth and in the world below."

When he finds out the truth, it will ruin his life.

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at September 25, 2005 04:54 PM

I blogged about Teiresias speaking in riddles, too. Even though he's blind he definatly knows what's going on throughout the play more than any of the characters.

Posted by: Amanda at September 25, 2005 05:57 PM

I have to say I think Kayla is right, as a reader we figure out exactly what has happened before Oedipus realizes it. The dramatic irony in the play is part of what makes it effective.
But yes, I agree that Oedipus has proven good at solving riddles in the past and I think that you have an idea that works well with what I said about Oedipus' pride. Maybe his pride is what gets in the way of his seeing the answer to this whole "riddle" of who killed Laius.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at September 25, 2005 07:39 PM

I agree with David think. I feel that this play is different than others in the respects of being a tragedy. I blogged about Oedipus having good intentions and I think that this really throws the audience for a loop. I feel that the audience is then waiting for what is going to be revealed next. Way to go David!

Posted by: Andy LoNigro at September 26, 2005 12:32 AM

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