Compare and Contrast King Oedipus and Tiresias
Even though there is not even an ounce of truth to the Greek’s Mythology, their stories are the most read folklore. In The Odyssey Tiresias and King Oedipus are extraordinary characters of this great tale. Although they are from different strata of the Greek society there are time when their lives intertwined..
The story of Oedipus is one of the biggest tragedies in all of Literature. The story has not only remained popular in Literature but has lent itself to Psychology and very often one hears the term, “The Oedipus Complex.” “The Oedipus Complex” simple stated is the desire of a child (Freud said child, not boy) to kill his father and sleep with his mother. The name definitely comes from the Greek Tragedy King Oedipus; and even though some people may deny it it does
Exist (http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/definitions/oedipus.htm). To understand Oedipus the man and king, one needs to understand his birth. Oedipus was born into sovereignty; his parents are King Laius and Queen Jocasta. Unfortunately, the king gives heed to a dreadful prophecy that tells him that any son he had would kill him. Believing this prophecy, when the queen gives birth to a son, the king tells her that she would have to kill him to prevent the prophecy from fulfilling. Wanting to please her husband, but unable to kill her own child, the queen gives the baby to a trusted servant after making sure he would not walk by distorting his feet. The child is given to a shepherd and he is eventually adopted by the childless king and queen of Corinth, Polybus and Merope. At about age eighteen, at a dinner party Oedipus is told the truth of his birth by a friend. He leaves the dinner party and went to find Apollo to find out the truth of his future. Apollo repeated the same prophecy that was told to his biological father. He would kill his father and sleep with his mother. Here is when the tragic saga of Oedipus’ life began. If Oedipus believed the whole story he may have saved himself much grief; he believes the part of the story that says he would kill his father and marry his mother’ he refuses to believe that he is adopted. He ran away because he does not want to hurts either of his parents..
Like his father, Oedipus tries to escape the appalling prophecy by running away from his adoptive parents, Alas! The very thing he is running form, he runs into; on his way to Thebes, unaware, he kills his father when they argue who has the right of way at a three way juncture. Oedipus reaches Thebes, the king is dead and the wicked Sphinx rules the county. Oedipus becomes the hero and king of Thebes because he correctly answers the Sphinx’s riddle. In due time Oedipus also marries his mother and she bares him four children. “Eventually, young Swell-Foot learned of a prophecy that he was to commit patricide and incest, and so, assuming the couple who raised him to be his natural parents, he fled his home only to fulfill the prophecy unawares, through two separate and seemingly unrelated events on the road from Corinth”. (Bragg, 2004). Even though he tries the prophecy is never far from Oedipus’ consciousness, when he gets words that his parents were dead, he is half way consol and the queen reassures him: “And as for this marriage with your mother— /have no fear. Many a man before you,/ in his dreams, has shared his mother’s bed./ Take such things for shadows, nothing at all— /Live, Oedipus, as if there’s no tomorrow!” ( lines 1008-1013). Please add your text here and on the word cited page Despite all this Oedipus is not comforted and the paradox of the seer lingers, none so blind as he who refuses to see.
At this juncture it is up to the reader to decide if Oedipus is a man seeking the truth or a king trying to save his subjects from starvation. When the plague of infertility hits Thebes, it renders everything and everyone infertile. Oedipus went to Apollo again, this time to figure out the future of his country. He was told when the killer of the king, his father is found and justice is served, the plague would be lifted. Oedipus begins a diligent search to find his father’s killer (the late king of Thebes), He made Tireias head of the investigation and at first Tireias refuses to give him an answer, but when Oedipus begins to suggest that he might be the killer in anger, he he discloses the name of the killer, Oedipus. Oedipus could not deny this fact for too long, and had no choice but to accept what he has done, Yes, if the king was his father then he is married to his mother, That is nauseating. The news got home before him, and by the time he reaches home his wife, mother, had already hung herself. This is enough cause for Oedipus to kill himself but perhaps he thinks he needs to suffer; therefore, he took a pin from his mother’s dress and blinded himself. Needless to say, he is driven from Thebes to become a beggar and a wanderer.
Tiresias’ blindness and Oedipus’ blindness are paradoxical Tiresias is blind and sees clearer than everyone else and Oedipus has sight and prefers not to see. One of the stories behind Tiresias’ blindness is one day after he was hunting with his dogs he stopped by a stream to quench his thirst and came upon Athena and Chariclo bathing and because he looked at them Athena blinded him (Simpson 1976). Oedipus and Tiresias are both blinded from their misdeeds albeit they are accidental misdeeds. In their own way they are heroes, granted, most people would rather have Oedipus as hero, people do not usually want to hear the truth. Oedipus’ is self inflected and Tiresias is inflicted by someone else. Neither Oedipus nor Tiresias is an ordinary man; Oedipus is royalty and Tiresias is a prophet. One of the characteristics of Greek Myth is there is always someone to foretell the future, which is not always pleasant news; and that makes Tiresias appearing in more Greek Myths that Oedipus. There is no record that Tiresias is married and Oedipus was married. After becoming blind Tiresias maintained his role as a prophet and Oedipus becomes a wandering begger.
Tiresias, the blind but uncannily wise prophet who appears in several of the Greek tragedies, epitomizes the androgynous existence. Tiresias has experienced life as both man and woman. His blindness and his intuitive knowledge are symbolic. Although he has lost the facility of external sight, associated with the masculine principle, he has gained strength and wisdom, which spring from his inner vision, a quality of the feminine (.Charles Seigneuret 1988)
While Oedipus wanders as a beggar, Tiresias continues his work as a seer. Oedipus is led around by his faithful daughter, and sister, Ante gone. There is not much more left for Oedipus to do now he has fulfill the prophecy, and turned over the rule of his kingdom to his sons. he is defenseless and with his daughter as his guide he is not going to jeopardize her life by causing trouble as she is making such great sacrifice for him. At some point he must have become friends with Tiresias since when the time comes for him to die he is led to the spot and only Tiresias is the only one left with him as he dies. Oedipus dies in Athens and even though they wanted his body to return to Thebes his body remains in Athens. As the legend goes Athens is blessed by his bones, his bones being in Athens, the country gained prosperity. One can say that Oedipus’ intension to do good follow him after death.
Despite Tiresias’ lowly birth and his many different mishaps he remains an important person. He is blind but there is never any mention that he is led around like Oedipus. When it comes time for Oedipus to die he led him to the spot to die and the gods have everyone leaving except him, therefore it is safe to say that they found favor with the gods or at least some of them. Tiresias is famous even after his death, as Greek Mythology goes this no surprise, the Greeks and the Mythology are full with stories with life after death. They are always visiting Hades, the underworld, for one reason or another. When Tiresias die there were people who would visit him in Hades to have their future told, people who still believed in Tiresias even after death..
After his blindness no one really cared about Oedipus, considering the reason for his blindness, as far as Oedipus is concerned it is all right if he were ignored. Another difference between Oedipus and Tiresias, one holds on to his honor and the other loses his. Tiresias was present at Oedipus’ death, but Tiresias had no one with him. He lost his sight tragically and lost his life tragically too. One day while he was drinking at a stream, he was killed by an arrow from Apollo’s bow. The common thread between Oedipus and Tiresias is their blindness. However, the circumstances are different. After death Tiresias was still important and he never loses his importance; however, Oedipus did lose his popularity but he regains it after death, although is is nothing anyone could prove; it was just an assumption that Athens is blessed because his bones are still there. With Tiresias it is proven that he is still being sought just as he did before he died. Oedipus is liked before his unfortunate fate, while people just like or dislike Tiresias because of what he can or cannot do for them. .
Judging by the number of stories in which Tiresias appears, there is no doubt about his significance to Mythology. Like many Shakespearian plays the Greeks have strong belief in the extra terrestrial and the underworld. As matter-of-fact must writers during that era seems to enjoy visits with the unknown. Just like people today who cannot make a move without their physic reading, people from the folklores depend on the prophecies of the seers. Even men who are acknowledged as men of valor can be caught planning their lives around the ambiguous predictions. The truth is once people hear these pronunciations; they plan their lives around them and even more so if they are favorable. A perfect example is Oedipus. He decides to leave home because of the prophecy that was told to him but it never occurs to him to find out from his parents if he were adopted. Had he known the truth about his birth, who knows, he may have stayed and never met his biological parents. However, it would have turned out he would have been off if he accepted the whole truth.
The Greeks are the most famous for folklore, and gods, they use them to explain everything. In King Oedipus, Oedipus is a man of courage and an obvious hero. He has to be at least sixteen years younger than his mother; yet, he is able to attract her enough to get her to marry him. With the Greeks anything is possible and their tales transcends time.
Bragg, Lois. (2004). Oedipus Borealis The Aberrant Body in Old Icelandic Myth and Saga. Madison, Fairchild University Press. Print
Charles Seigneuret, Jean. (1988). Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: A-J. Westpoint, Greenwood Press, P53. Print
“Definition of Oedipus Complex.” http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/definitions/oedipus.htm
Simpson, Michael. (1976) Gods and Heroes of the Greeks: The Library of Apollodorus Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press. Print