12/28/2018

Oedipus and Teiresias: Their encounter and dramatic signifinance of it.



                                King Oedipus by Sophocles opens before the royal palace with the supplication of the plague trodden people of Thebes. Oedipus the king hears that  their prayer and informs them that he has already sent  Creon, his trusted kinsman, to the pythian house of Apollo to seek deliverance from the pestilence. Creon returns from the Delphic Oracle with news that “an unclean thing”, the killer of late King Laius is the cause of the plague. So, the murderer should be brought to light and executed or banished from the city. Oedipus who is keen to get rid of the curse starts his search to identify the polluter. So, he seeks the help of the blind prophet of Thebes, Teiresias, “In whom, of all men, lives the incarnate truth.”

Oedipus at first welcomes Teiresias with reverent and tells him to help them find the killer of Laius. But Teiresias who knows the truth puts down Oedipus’ request. In fury Oedipus accuses that he has a hand in plotting the situation. Teiresias then speaks the truth that Oedipus is “the cursed polluter”, the killer of Laius. Oedipus counters that the prophet is blind and asks him where he was when Sphinx was terrorising Thebes. It was Oedipus who saved it from the horror. He accuses Teiresias along with Creon of treachery. Teiresias replies that though Oedipus has eyes, he “cannot see what company” he keeps and in what “in sinful union” he lives. The prophet also predicts when the secrets will be revealed, Oedipus who has sight will become blind and he will be banished from the country like a beggar.

This encounter between Oedipus and Teiresias is dramatically very important because it is replete with dramatic irony and reveals the truth about Oedipus. The scene also hints at Oedipus’ future. First, Sophocles uses dramatic irony to reveal the truth. When Oedipus calls Teiresias “Shameless and brainless, sightless, senseless sot!”, the truth is that it is not Teiresias but Oedipus himself is blind and he will discover it at the end. Again, the encounter assures that the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle is fulfilled. Oedipus commits the crime of patricide and incest. Finally, Teiresias predicts the future of Oedipus that his “now clear-seeing eyes / Shall then be darkened” and his crime will be heard everywhere. He also says that Oedipus will then be banished from Thebes as “an unclean thing” and once king will turn in to a blind beggar.

Another significant point comes out of this encounter between Oedipus and Teiresias. Oedipus’ arrogance is revealed. He proudly declares his superiority over the prophet as he saved the city from Sphinx. Blinded by pride he crosses all bounds of decency and acts like a tyrant. This arrogance or hubris causes his tragic doom at the end.

Thus, the encounter between Oedipus and Teiresias suggests the theme of physical blindness of the prophet and spiritual blindness of Oedipus. The dramatic irony used here heightens Oedipus’s sufferings. Once again fate speaks and this time it is through the blind Teiresias.

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