Oedipus and Tiresias Essay

This essay has a total of 1035 words and 5 pages.


Oedipus and Tiresias





Oedipus and Tiresias, characters of Sophocles' play "Oedipus Tyrannus," are propelled to
their individual destinies by their peculiar relationships with truth. Paranoid and quick
to anger Oedipus, is markedly different from the confident and self-assured Tiresias. In
the dialogue between the two men, Oedipus rapidly progresses from praise of Tiresias as a
champion and protector of Thebes in line 304, to blatantly accusing the blind prophet of
betraying the city in line 331, to angrily insulting him in line 334. Rather than be
intimidated by the protagonist's title and temperament, Tiresias draws strength from what
he knows is true and is able to stand his ground.


In this play, power and strength come from the knowledge of truth. Ironically, blind
Tiresias, who has the ability to see the truth, becomes enslaved to his own knowledge.
Knowing the truth about Oedipus enlists him in the designs of fate as the catalyst of
Oedipus' destructive revelation. The prophet takes strength in knowing what he knows is
true but, as he says in line 316, he is not able to profit from the knowledge. Forced into
dispute with the king of Thebes, by playing off of the anxieties of the main character,
the simple power of knowing what another does not know protects Tiresias.


Gradually Tiresias' and Oedipus' relationships with the truth are revealed as that of
knowledge and ignorance, respectively. The anxieties that plague Oedipus, making him weak
and prone to paranoia, are rooted in the obscurity of his origins. In response to
accusations made by Oedipus, Tiresias declares that he is neither a conspirator in a
scheme concocted by Oedipus' paranoid mind, nor his supplicant. Rather, Tiresias states
that he is a slave of Loxias: the ambiguous one.


In whatever manner the mechanics of Tiresias' prophetic sight function, to understand the
nature of truth, they must include deciphering the ambiguous. As a true slave of Loxias,
he is incapable of directly telling Oedipus the truth but always speaks enigmatically. An
extreme annoyance to Oedipus, such seemingly vague speech may be the only way that the
truth may be expressed. Tiresias is thus fluent in the language of truth and is speaking
to Oedipus, who claims to excel in deciphering riddles, in the clearest manner.


Tiresias knows who Oedipus' parents are, and he knows that the revelation of Oedipus'
genealogy will cause the foundations of Oedipus' identity to crumble, simultaneously
destroying one man and causing another man to come into being. As he states in line 438:
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