Essay on Sight and Blindness in Oedipus the King

Words: 1054
Pages: 5

The Irony of Sight and Knowledge in Oedipus the King

People equate ‘seeing’ to gaining knowledge. Expressions such as “I see” and “seeing truth” are used to express understanding of something, but is seeing really the same as knowing? In Oedipus the King, Oedipus’s inability to grasp the truth is despite the fact that he is physically able to see contrasts Teiresias’s knowledge of the truth even though he is blind. The irony of the blind man being knowledgeable, and the seer becoming blind to the truth suggests that the idea that knowledge is not related to physical sight. In the beginning of the play, Oedipus is able to see but does not know the truth about who killed Laius. At the conclusion of the play, Oedipus is
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Teiresias wishes he did not know the truth because he knows it is traumatizing and will leave many people distraught when revealed. In contrast, Oedipus does not know and is desperate to. Simultaneously, speaking in literal terms, Oedipus has the means to “see the truth” whilst Teiresius does not. This quote on page 6 also using foreshadowing to hint to the audience that with truth comes pain, and at the end of the play, Oedipus gouges his eyes out. Teiresius tries to make several hints to Oedipus of what is coming his way, for example, when he says “You with your precious eyes, you’re blind to the corruption of your life, to the house you live in, those who live with - who are your parents?” (11). This is a direct reference to Oedipus being blind about who he is and where he comes from, however Oedipus perceives this as a direct attack from Teiresius. As a result of this, Oedipus tries to defend himself by mocking Teiresius about being blind. Teiresius replies with a line which contains strong foreshadowing, and clearly states what Sophocles is trying to tell the audience about blindness; “You mock my blindness do you? But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind” (33).

The definition of a seer is both a prophet and a person who has the physical ability to see. This creates another example of dramatic irony in the play that is not as obvious the other examples. Teiresius is a prophet, however he cannot see, on the