Oedipus the Blind King

The story of Oedipus the Blind King was a popular Greek myth that was brought into prominence in the 5th Century by Sophocles in The Three Thebian plays. The story of Oedipus the King as written by Sophocles is considered unique because it is uncovered rather than told. Despite it being a well-known story, Sophocles still managed to attract hordes of people to the staging of his plays because he made excellent use of tension, irony, paradox and symbolism.

The play begins with Oedipus as a worried king trying to solve the mystery of the infertility plaguing the land. In a bid to do this, he discovers that his past is tied to the situation in the present. It is revealed that Oedipus fled his home in Corinth to escape an Oracle prediction that he would murder his father and marry his mother. Ignorant of the fact that he is adopted, he ends up fulfilling the prediction. On his way to Thebes, he gets into a dispute with King Lauis (his real father) and murders him. He then solves a riddle posed by a Sphinx thereby freeing Thebes from its tyrannous rule. In gratitude, he is anointed king and marries the queen (his real mother).

Blindness as a theme has been well used by Sophocles in revealing Oedipus’ character. Sight is used to symbolically represent knowledge so blindness is the lack of that knowledge. Oedipus is blind in a multitude of ways. For instance, he remains ignorant of his true parentage till he fulfills the prediction. To reinforce Oedipus’ character of blindness, a blind seer Tiresias is introduced. Tiresias, despite being physically blind, is able to decipher the truth while Oedipus clings to his ignorant state. Another aspect of blindness is evident when Oedipus is not able to connect the similarity between the stranger he murdered on his way to Thebes and the story of how the previous king was murdered.

When Oedipus finally accepts the truth that he has indeed fulfilled the Oracle prophecy that he was trying so desperately to evade, he gouges his eyes out. This is a sort of escapism as he does not want to deal with the harsh reality that is his life. Some view it as a self-punishment of his ignorance.  Although the play concludes with Oedipus being physically blind, he has been enlightened.