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How can the reader explicate these lines from Oedipus Rex:  With other men, but not...

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mujibustc | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted January 26, 2013 at 6:23 AM via web

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How can the reader explicate these lines from Oedipus Rex:

 

With other men, but not with thee, for thou

In ear, wit, eye, in everything art blind.``

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:16 PM (Answer #1)

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These lines are spoken by Teiresias in Scene I after he has been brought to speak to Oedipus, who essays to rid Thebes of its calamities by driving out the evil that causes them. After sending Creon to Delphi to receive the Oracle of Apollo, Creon reports to Oedipus that the gods have sent the plagues in order to punish Thebes for the murder of their king and for the Thebians' having sheltered "the pollution" in their land.  Then, Choragos suggests that Oedipus consult with the blind seer Teiresias, who is later brought before him.

When Oedipus demands that he reveal what this seer knows about the curse of the gods, Teiresias refuses to speak because he realizes how "dreadful" the knowledge is. Instead, he says that fate will take care of the situation,

...Bear your own fate, and I'll/Bear mine. (l. 309)

This remarks evokes ogre, or anger, in Oedipus, who demands that Tieresias speak.  But, the seer states that he wishes to be "more prudent" since he is aware of the repercussions of revealing the truth that Oedipus is, in fact, the "evil" since he is the one who has killed the king of Thebes. However, Oedipus is determined to know and antagonizes Tieresias by accusing him of arrogance; moreover, he charges Tieresias with the complicity in the crime,

You planned it, you had it done, if you had eyes,

I'd say the crime was yours, and yours alone. (ll 332-333)

This remark of Oedipus now elicits ogre now in Tieresias, who charges Oedipus with being "the pollution in this country" (338); further, he calls Oedipus the very murderer that he seeks. Enraged by this accusation, Oedipus accuses him of infamy; nevertheless,Tieresias continues, saying Oedipus is living in shame with those most dear to him. "Can you go on babbling like this forever?" Oedipus retorts. "Yea, if the might of truth can aught prevail," the seer replies.  To this remark, Oedipus charges,

With other men, but not with thee, for thou

In ear, wit, eye, in everything art blind. (ll355-366)

These lines, indeed, are powerfully ironic. As dramatic irony, Oedipus is unaware that the words of Tieresias are profoundly true.  He is, indeed, the murderer of the king of Thebes; furthermore, he lives in moral shame (incest) with his wife and children since his wife, Jocasta, is actually his mother, and, therefore, his children are also his siblings.  No one is, therefore, more "blind in ear, wit, eye, in everything" than Oedipus has been because he has lived his life unaware that the man whom he killed on the road was, in fact, his father.

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