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What role does knowledge play in Oedipus Rex?

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The intermediate section of The Three Theban Plays, Oedipus the King, is a story of the tragic demise of a heroic character. So what role does knowledge play in Oedipus Rex? Sophocles uses knowledge throughout this play to depict the fall of Oedipus. Essentially, the entire play is based on how the acquisition of knowledge shapes and consequentially leads to the tragic events that occur. The idea of metaphorical blindness and in the closing scenes, literal blindness, also links to the role of knowledge, as it can be seen as a result of acquiring it. Overall, knowledge is the main motif as it leads to Oedipus? downfall. Oedipus, at the beginning of the play, has knowledge of the world and his position in it. From the outset, his inherent knowledge of his surroundings shapes him as a character by displaying his role, his traits and the background of his past events. Effectively, Oedipus is set up as a wise and nurturing figure on the first page when he opens by saying ?Oh my children?. By referring to the citizen of Thebes as ?Children?, he is initially putting himself above others, displaying that he is a highly regarded figure. By saying ?Oh my?, displays his concern as he has knowledge of the suffering of Thebans. ...read more.


This power is emphasised as Tiresias presents Oedipus saying ?you are the murderer you hunt?. Again, Oedipus denies this knowledge and calls Tiresias? accusation ?obscenity?. Oedipus displays selectivity towards the knowledge he is presented and through this, draws himself into his demise. This dramatic scene depicts the ironic notion of metaphorical blindness. Tiresias, although being literally blind, is shown to be able to see in the metaphorical sense of already having knowledge of Oedipus? impending demise, yet although all has been presented to Oedipus, he is metaphorically blind to his actions and the events that are beginning to unfold. Linking to his unwillingness to accept knowledge, Oedipus displays his metaphorical blindness, yet ironically, accuses Tiresias of exactly that, arguing that ?given eyes, I?d say you did the killing single-handed?. He continues to mock Tiresias of his blindness by saying he has ?eyes blind as stone?. Despite Oedipus? unjustified actions, Tiresias is fully aware of Oedipus? metaphorical blindness and attempts to tell Oedipus, with no success. The metaphorical blindness apparent, adds to our awareness of Oedipus? lack and desire for knowledge. Further through the play, Oedipus gains desire to obtain knowledge of his life. The desire to obtain knowledge depicts the importance of knowledge and how it can lead to destruction. Oedipus? character is once again reshaped and is presented as a man with hubris and believes he can control fate as he gains knowledge of Polybus? natural death. ...read more.


This personifies suffering and pain as well as showing Oedipus finally accepting his fate. Knowledge also gets represented as being residual as Oedipus attempts to escape from its destructive nature by asking for the people to ?Take me away, far, far from Thebes?. It is apparently that Oedipus? only way out of knowledge?s viscous grasp is to flee somewhere where knowledge of his demise is not apparent. He brings himself into full isolation where kdnowledge cannot harm as he keeps asking for Thebes to ?Drive me out of the land?. Isolation is again made apparent when Creon takes the only thing Oedipus has left, his daughters. Knowledge is the ultimate catalyst in Oedipus? downfall and proves to have a destructive nature. Jocasta, through the acquisition of knowledge, is seen hanging herself as well as Oedipus becoming his fate. Knowledge is shown to have the power to bring Oedipus, once a king, down to an isolated outcast, being lower than the absolute lowest point of society. Upon Creon becoming king, Oedipus is reduced to nothing where he declares ?here your power ends?. So overall, the role of knowledge in Oedipus the King is to bring about destruction and demise, to show the audience blind from the sighted. Sophocles would have used the main notion of knowledge to suggest that fate is unescapable, that humanity is not to undermine civilized values. Knowledge and desire for it, fuels all the actions and events that occurs in the play, continually developing the desire and need for it. ...read more.

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