Homework Help

Once again, I need some help in finding two important quotes with explanations from...

user profile pic

yellek | Salutatorian

Posted August 23, 2013 at 12:42 AM via web

dislike 1 like

Once again, I need some help in finding two important quotes with explanations from Sophocles' Oedipus Rex lines 310-481.  I think there is one in 410-418 where Oedipus asks the prophet Tiresias to identify the cause of the plague. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 23, 2013 at 1:40 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

I think we have matching numbers for this one! Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, is the ironic tragedy about the rise and fall of Oedipus. In the lines you mention, Creon has returned to Thebes after fetching Tiresias, in hopes that the blind prophet will be able to identify the source of the curse the city is under.

Tiresias speaks calmly and clearly, telling Oedipus, detail by detail, that he is the problem. Even worse, he says Oedipus he has been sleeping with someone he should not be sleeping with (his mother).

I say that you secretly have lived most foully(385)
with those who should be most dear, nor do you see
to what extent of evil you have come.

Of course the audience knows Tiresias is speaking the truth, but Oedipus is too arrogant to even consider what Tiresias says. No one blames Oedipus for this awful thing he has done in marrying his mother because he did not know the truth at the time; however, it is difficult to offer him any sympathy when he is so unwilling to consider every possibility in order to save his city. 

In response to the things Tiresias reveals, Oedipus displays his complete arrogance. In this speech, Oedipus does three things: he accuses Creon and Tiresias of trying to steal the throne from him by telling lies (lines 400-409), he mocks the Tiresias for being figuratively blind about the cause of Thebes' trouble (lines 410-420), and, in the last lines, threatens to strike (hit) the prophet, restraining himself only because Tiresias is old. 

O wealth and power and skill reaching(400)
beyond skill, in a much-envied life
how much resentment gathers up inside you,
if for the sake of this realm, which the city put
into my hands as a gift, not something sought,
the trusted Creon, my friend from the beginning,(405)
beguiles me and secretly desires to oust me,
engaging this craftily-working wizard,
this tricky beggar, who sees clearly only
for profit, but is blind when it comes to skill.
So tell me, when are you the wise seer?(410)
How is it that, when the singing hound was here,
you never said how the citizens might be freed?
Even though the riddle could not be solved by
the first man who met it, but required prophecy.
But you did not come forth with this, knowing some clue(415)
from birds or gods; instead I came along,
the idiot Oedipus! I stopped her,
working from intellect, not learning from birds.
The very man you’re trying to overthrow,
thinking to stand beside Creon’s throne.(420)
I think you both—you and the one who framed these things—
will regret your urge to cleanse the land, but if you
were not so old, you’d learn now what such words earn.

It is exactly because of these kinds of responses that the audience is eager to discover how Oedipus's fall--for they are certain he will fall--will happen. The pity and awe will be more intense for everyone because of the high pedestal on which Oedipus has placed himself.  

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes