Oedipus Essay Research Paper In Sopohocles

Oedipus Essay, Research Paper

In Sopohocles’ tragedy "Oedipus the King", Oedipus proclaims " it

was I who have pronounced these curses on myself" (Madden 37). With this

announcement, Oedipus is aware that his pursuit for order has led to a life of

chaos. The central thesis is that the presumption of order establishes physical,

intellectual, and spiritual chaos. The text’s reference to the sphinx, Oedipus,

and Tiresias creates this notion. These three literal signifiers are the

metaphoric symbolizers of physical, intellectual, and spiritual chaos. The

concept of physical chaos is first introduced during the first speech of the

priest when reference is made to the "harsh singer" (Madden 37), the

sphinx. In greek mythology, the sphinx is recognised as a hybrid creature with a

woman’s head, a lion’s body, an eagle’s wings, and a serpent’s tail. In reality,

"the virgin with the crooked talons" (Madden 48), is a unique

archetype for many things in one single being. The sphinx is an epitome of

destruction and chaos who establishes "the tax [they] had to pay

[her]" (Madden 17) because she devourers all who fail to answer her riddle.

Her domination of Thebes causes havoc and melancholic responses that are

directly related to the degree of her physical chaos. The confrontation between

Oedipus and the sphinx ends with the latter destroying herself, "the winged

maiden came against him: he was seen then to be skilled" (Madden 29), due

to Oedipus answering her riddle. By destroying herself, the sphinx makes it

possible for the oracles to come true. With her reign of terror at an end, the

sphinx makes it possible for Oedipus to continue with his life in pursuit of

order. Chaos is established because of the opportunity for the prophecies to

become an actuality. The physical appearance of the sphinx and her self-

destruction foreshadow chaos for Oedipus in the near future. As the sphinx is

the measure of highest physical chaos, so Oedipus is a measure of utmost

intellectual chaos. Oedipus, being the king of Thebes, portrays qualities that

signify intelligence, fortitude, and freedom from doubt. Oedipus’ intelligence

is prominent upon knowledge of his ill faith; Oedipus, in his present state of

mind, interprets the prophecies made to him literally. This course of action

assists in the accomplishment of the oracles. "[Phoebus] said [Oedipus]

would be [his] mother’s lover, show offspring to mankind [that] they could not

look at, and be his [father's] murderer. When [Oedipus] heard this, and ever

since, [he] gauged the way to Corinth by the stars alone, running to a place

where [he] would never see the disgrace in the oracle’s words come true."

(Madden 37). By trying to set down a systematic life, Oedipus ironically commits

the "wretched horrors" (Madden 37) he intends to avoid, thus coming to

the realization that "[he] struck them with his hand"(Madden 52).

Oedipus answers the riddle of the sphinx "and stopped her-by using

thought" (Madden 26). By doing so, Oedipus’ reward for freeing Thebes was

the throne and the hand in marriage of the widowed Jocasta. His

intelligence-driven fulfilment of the prophecies induced chaos because

"[her] riddle wasn’t for a man chancing by to interpret, prophetic art was

needed" (Madden 26). The realization that "[he has] pronounced these

curses on [himself]" (Madden 37) depicts how Oedipus establishes

intellectual chaos because the choices he makes to secure order in his life

strangely enough provoke a chaotic time to come. The mention of Tiresias in the

play signifies spiritual chaos. He is a blind but wise prophet who "sees

more [?] than Lord Phoebus" (Madden 24). Tiresias knows the truth about

Oedipus and states: "he’ll be shown a father who is also brother; to the

one who bore him, son and husband; to his father, his seed-fellow and

killer" (Madden 28). Tiresias has "the strength of the truth"

(Madden 25) and chaos evolves when he does not speak of the truth he knows. With

this, Oedipus accuses him of being "[part] of [the] plot [to murder Laius]"

(Madden 26), when in reality, "[Oedipus is the] enemy" (Madden 27).

Tiresias is blind due to natural causes, but when Oedipus tries to achieve his

level of wisdom, all that is obtained is chaos. "[H]e snatched the pins

[?] and struck [them] into [his eyeballs]" (Madden 50) in attempt to see

spiritually. Tiresias deceives Oedipus unintentionally into believing that

wisdom can be achieved by blindness; Tiresias says: "since you have thrown

my blindness at me: Your eyes can’t see the evil to which you’ve come"

(Madden 27). This incident depicts how Tiresias’ order establishes chaos for

Oedipus. Acquiring order cannot exist without the concept of chaos. The

realization that order leads to chaos manifests man’s pursuit for an unreachable

end. The challenge to accomplish a life of order involves smart decision making,

and this process is essential for physical, intellectual and spiritual chaos.


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