What are three key steps of Oedipus Rex's journey towards self knowledge?Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, there are key points in the play in which the King of Thebes progresses toward self-knowledge:

1.  His initial step is, of course, his kingly concern for his subjects who bring branches and chaplets of olive leaves and sit in "attitudes of despair" which makes it apparent that they have come to beseech him.  Oedipus addresses them,

My children, ....

Why have you strewn yourselves before these altars

In supplication, witho your bough and garlands?

Oedipus tells the people of Thebes that he is moved to find them "suppliant here."  In short, he wants to help his people and prove himself their benevolent ruler and the "liberator" that he was called for his "boldness long ago."

2.  In the anguish that he shares with his people--"Sick as you are, not one is as sick as I"--Oedipus sends Creon, brother of the queen, to Delphi to seek the advice of the god Apollo.  He hopes that Creon will learn there "What act or pledge of mine may save the city." After Creon returns Oedipus insists upon bringing "what is dark to light"; Creon tells Oedipus that the gods caused the plague as a reaction against the murder of Thebes's previous king.  Oedipus, vowing to root out this evil, sets in motion his fate.

3. When Jocasta reminds Oedipus of Apollo's oracle, and of the way Laius died, Oedipus begins to realize that he is the murder of Laius, and asks to speak with the witness to the murder, a shepherd.  But, when the shepherd is hesitant.  Oedipus demands, "Yet I must hear."  The shepherd tells Oedipus that the child he gave to the messenger was said to be Laius's child, "But it is your wife who can tell you about that."  However, it is too late to speak with Jocasta, who has committed suicide.  Nevertheless, Oedipus knows the truth, saying after he blinds himself that he has been "Too long been blind to those for whom I was searching."

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Oedipus Rex

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