King Oedipus

King Oedipus by Sophocles

Blindness is the downfall of the hero Oedipus in the play “King Oedipus” by Sophocles. Not only does the blindness appear physically, but also egotistically as he refuses to acknowledge
the possibility of him actually being the murderer of Laius, the former King of Thebes.
Coincidentally, he is also Oedipus’s biological father. The use of light and dark in the play is
strategically applied in order to better understand the emotion that lies within the characters.
As blame is placed upon Oedipus for the murder of Laius, he blinds himself from the possible
reality that he may be the killer. The people of Thebes are informed that there is an impending
curse upon them as a result of the murder mystery of their previous king, Laius. In order to
quicken the cure, Oedipus calls on Teiresias, the blind prophet to aide them. Excessive pride
fuels his inability to believe the prophecy of Teiresias stating Oedipus is the killer, and that he
has married his mother. “Until I came – I, ignorant Oedipus, came – and stopped the riddler’s
mouth, guessing the truth by mother-wit, not bird-love.” Because he continually boasts about
how he has saved Thebes from the Sphinx, he believes that no one could know more than he,
especially if he is the one to be accused of a crime he “knows” he didn’t commit. In response
Teiresias argues, “You are please to mock my blindness. Have you eyes, and do not see your
own damnation? Eyes and cannot see what company you keep.” This is a pivotal component to
the irony behind the idea of blindness throughout the play. Although Teiresias is physically
blind, he is able to accept and “see” the truth, while Oedipus physically being able to see is left
in the dark rejecting truth. The blindness of Oedipus leads to the darkness of Thebes also
known as The City of Light. “We cannot believe, we cannot deny; all’s dark. We fear, but we
cannot see, what is before us” worry the townspeople. Dark, here, symbolizes the confusion
that is placed upon the people of Thebes. They are in a chasm trying to decipher what is to be
determined as true, the prophecy of Teiresias, or the good word of Oedipus.
After several testimonies, Oedipus opens his eyes and accepts the blame. In order to deliver
justice for his wrongs in killing his father and marrying his mother, Oedipus chooses to blind
himself physically. The Attendant explains the people regarding the Oedipus’s self-inflicted
injury. “And thrust, from full arm’s length, into his eyes-- eyes that should see no longer his
shame, his guilt, no longer see those they should have never seen, nor see, unseeing, those he
had longed to see, henceforth seeing nothing but night.” The use of night is similar to that of the
use of dark throughout the play. Night is in reference to lies. Everything that he, or his eye, has
seen has all resulted in the discovery of a lie. From the parents he thinks he has, to the family
that he has, the world he has created centers around a lie. Until the moment he discovers that he
has really killed his father, ironically, Oedipus has never known truth. When he finally deduces
that he is behind the killing of his biological father, Laius, he cries, “O Light! May I never look
on you again, revealed as I am, sinful in my begetting, sinful in marriage, sinful in shedding of
blood.” In this instance his call to “light” refers to truth. In this, he discovers that lies and sins
are the basis lie at the core of his entire life. For this very reason Oedipus blinds himself. His
experience with truth is too painful and he no longer wants to “see” it again. To him there is
nothing left for him to see. He explains to his people, “What should I do with eyes where all is
ugliness? … Where is there any beauty for me to see? Where loveliness of sight or sound?
Away!” At one point he believes that he has seen everything, when actually has seen nothing for
everything around him has been no more then just a lie.
Although not physically