Oedipus The King Essay, Research Paper
Oedipus: King Of Riddles?
In Greek mythology the oracles or gods are rarely wrong in their
predictions of the future. Yet the characters still try to fight the
predictions. Do their personalities and traits decide their future, or does
fate take its course no matter what? Oedipus was a shrewd man furnished
with wit and intellect, yet his lack of insight (the ability to see and
understand clearly the inner nature of himself) and his arrogance led to
his demise, not fate.
Oedipus’s aret? (an exceptional ability or gift) was unravelling
riddles, and solving any puzzles with ease. He had a surplus of the
aptitude to look outward, but unfortunately he had a deficiency of the
ability to look inward. This talent of looking outward made him renowned
for deciphering riddles and mysteries. Yet when Tiresias appears and speaks
in riddles, Oedipus cannot solve them because of his lack of insight.
Tiresias’s riddles are clear in what they state, but Oedipus cannot
understand them because he doesn’t know himself well enough. Tiresias
All ignorant! And I refuse to link my utterance with a downfall
such as yours.(Pg.42) At this point in the play, Oedipus still cannot
perceive who the murderer of King Laius is, even though the riddle is
obvious. Oliver 2 Oedipus has the ability to comprehend the riddles, but
he won’t allow himself to accept the truth. When Oedipus saved Thebes from
The Sphinx, he answered this difficult puzzle. The Sphinx demanded, What
creature is it that walks on four feet in the morning, on two at noon, and
on three in the evening? With his eminent mastery of riddles and having an
open mind, Oedipus replied, It is Man. As a child he crawls on four. When
he grows up he walks upright on his two feet, and in old age he leans on a
staff.1 This puzzle is far more complex than Tiresias’s rudimentary
riddles, so Oedipus has the ability to solve the riddles but cannot let
himself do so, because of his pomposity. Oedipus is so arrogant that he
can’t believe that he could possibly have done anything wrong. He suffered
from the sin of hubris. That is, he was very vain, and conceited. No matter
how straightforward Tiresias’s riddles were, Oedipus’s pride wouldn’t let
him solve them. Finally, Tiresias came right out and said what he meant
without a riddle, and Oedipus still couldn’t accept that he did anything
wrong. Tiresias simply stated, I say, you murdered the man whose murderer
you require. (Pg.37) Following that remark from Tiresias, Oedipus shielded
himself by accusing his brother in law, Creon (his uncle in reality), of
forcing these insinuations from Tiresias. Of course, this wasn’t true, it
was just a classic example of Oedipus’s arrogance trying to defend itself.
Oedipus’s expiration was caused simply because of his arrogance and his
lack of self knowledge. He didn’t understand himself well enough. He could
unravel any mystery besides
Oliver 3 his own existence.
All of his life Oedipus had solved mysteries and puzzles about
subjects other than himself. Now that he was faced with riddles accusing
him of something, his own arrogance kept him from the truth. Oedipus would
have solved Tiresias’s riddles instantaneously if it weren’t for his pride,
and lack of insight.
Finally, the truth is forced on Oedipus with outstanding evidence,
presented by the messenger, and the shepherd, so he must accept his
destiny. Was he not able to solve Tiresias’s riddles because his arrogance
wouldn’t allow him to, or did he recognize the answers immediately, his
vanity not allowing him to acknowledge the truth?