Episode 1 and Stasimon 1 of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles:  When Tiresias refuses to speak, how is the reaction of Oedipus characteristic of him?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Sophocles' Oedipus in Oedipus Rex (or Oedipus the King) is a man of action, but he is also a man of temper. We know from the myth of Oedipus that the only way he was able to become the King of Thebes started when he met another man (unknown to him—his father) who also had a terrible temper. Because Oedipus would not yield the right-of-way on the road to his father, his father attacked him, and Oedipus (in self-defense—but also fulfilling the oracle's prediction) killed Laius. When Oedipus (the man of action) solved the Riddle of the Sphinx, he won the deep appreciation of the people—they named him King and gave him the widowed Queen Jocasta (his mother) in marriage.

When the people and the priest of the temple come to Oedipus many years later, complaining of plague, the loss of crops and the death of their animals, Oedipus promises that he will help. He has already sent Creon (his brother-in-law) to speak to the Oracle at Delphi. Creon returns with news that Oedipus (against Creon's better judgment) insists upon hearing in public. Creon reports:

The Oracle has said that the murder of the previous king, Laius, must be avenged.

When Oedipus calls the prophet, Tiresias, to explain, the old blind man refuses to speak (as did Creon) until Oedipus bullies him into answering him (as he did with Creon). It is at this point that Tiresias reveals that Oedipus has killed the previous king, Laius.

With a temper like his father—and similar to the one he exhibited in facing his father many years before—Oedipus becomes extremely angry and accuses Tiresias of acting in collusion with his brother-in-law, Creon, to take the throne from Oedipus.

In recalling the past, we see a pattern emerge regarding Oedipus' behavior, and are not then surprised with his reaction toward Tiresias' words. He has a temper, but is also used to having his way. (We see this with Tiresias and Creon.)

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