Homework Help

Can it be inferred that Oedipus' suffering at the end of the play Oedipus Rex could...

user profile pic

lifeinlove | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM via web

dislike 2 like

Can it be inferred that Oedipus' suffering at the end of the play Oedipus Rex could have been prevented by his respecting the decision of Theresious, and therefore finish his life without as much misery?

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The original question had to be edited down.  I think that there are a couple of points to be made here.  The first is that the role of Teiresias from the question has to be examined.  I am not sure he is in the position to make a "decision."  He does not operate in this capacity.  He reluctantly tells Oedipus the truth.  I don't see it as Oedipus respecting or disrespecting a decision.  In this light, Oedipus has the ability to act in accordance with what Teiresias envisions.  Oedipus chooses not to do so. It's not a decision in which the seer is superior and Oedipus is disobeying orders.  His refusal is borne out of his own hubris.  Indeed, Oedipus' tragic flaw is this condition that displays him to be one in which tragically human.  

In the end, the Chorus seems to suggest that the "sea of dire misfortune" in which Oedipus is cast was something in which hurt and pain were inevitable.  Had Oedipus accepted the fate that was set out for him, he would have still experienced pain and suffering at marrying his mother, killing his father, and committing unnatural acts.  This seemed to be laid out as something unavoidable.  This fate is what constitutes the pain of being mortal, something that the Chorus emphasizes.  I think that Oedipus' pain could be seen as something inevitable, perhaps slightly lessened in its dramatic swelling had he understood the conditions of his fate earlier in the drama.  Yet, being set in a "sea of dire misfortune" seemed to be his lot in consciousness.

Sources:

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:20 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

Certainly, the pain of realizing that he has married his mother could not be mitigated if Oedipus were to have listened to Teiresias; however, Oedipus could have lessened his humiliation if he were to have not been "blind" to the words of the seer who tells him frankly, "I say that you are the murderer whom you seek." For, in his hubris, the king of Thebes hurls insults at the seer as he has done to Creon, accusing him of wishing to be king, demanding his death "So that all the world may see what treason means."

It is the dramatic irony of so many of Oedipus's hasty accusations against the seer and his brother-in-law/uncle both that bring upon Oedipus his terrible undoing--"Judgments too quickly formed are dangerous," as stated by the Choragos. So, when all these accusations of Oedipus turn back upon him, he is so overwhelmed by a fate that he has brought upon himself that, in the profoundes of ironies, he reacts with the same rage that has been the initiator of his ironic statements.  Thus, in the end, Oedipus is a victim of his own hubris, defining him, indeed, as the tragic hero who falls from greatness because of his own free action.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes