Friday, March 12, 2010

Sophocles and Oedipus Rex

The Athenian Sophocles (497/6 BC- 406/5 BC) was to become one of the great playwrights of the golden age. With his studies complete on all Arts, he won many prizes in plays competitions. An accomplished actor, Sophocles performed in many of his own plays. Oedipus Rex is considered one of the best classic Greek tragedies. Aristotle referred to it frequently in the Poetics.
Sophocles presents the story of King Oedipus, who was condemned by oracle to kill his father and marry his mother. It shows the fatalism of destiny, though he tried, he could not escape his will.
In the agony of events and emotions, I reproduce here when Tiresias, the great blind prophet of Thebes, after resisting telling Oedipus that the “monster of the oracle” was alive, he is compelled to reveal who Laius’ murderer was. Though, being explicit, Oedipus would not believe it.

Sophocles, picture from

Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrificing. 1780- 1785 Aquarell by Füssli, Johann Heinrich

Oedipus  Tiresias, thou who searchest everything,
Communicable or nameless, both in heaven
And on the earth –thou canst not see the city,
But knowest no less what pestilence visits it,
Wherefrom our only saviour and defence
We find, sir king, in thee. For Phoebus –if
Thou dost not know it from the messengers-
To us, who sent to ask him, sent word back,
That from this sickness no release should come,
Till we had found and slain the men who slew
Laius, or driven them, banished, from the land.
Wherefore do thou –not sparing augury,
Either through birds, or any other way
Thou hast of divination –save thyself,
And save the city, and me; save the whole mass
By this dead corpse infected; for in thee
Stands our existence; and for men, to help
With might and main is of all tasks the highest.

Tiresias   Alas! How terrible it is to know,
Where no good comes of knowing! Of these matters
I was full well aware, but let them slip me;
Else I had not come hither.
Oedipus  What, hyou do know, and will not speak? Your mind
Is to betray us, and destroy the city?

Tiresias  I will not bring remorse upon myself
And upon you. Why do you search these matters?
Vain, vain! I will not tell you.
Tiresias  King as you are, we must be peers at least
In argument; I am your equal, there;
For I am Loxias’ servant, and not yours;
So never need be writ of Creon’s train.
And since you have reproached me with my blindness,
I say –you have your sight, and do not sep
What evils are about you, nor with whom,
Nor in what home you are dwelling. Do you know
From whom you are? Yea, you are ignorant
That to your own you are an enemy,
Whether on earth, alive, or under it.
Soon from this land shall drive you, stalking grim,
Your mother’s and your father’s two-edged curse,
With eyes then dark, though they look proudly now.
What place on earth shall not be harbour, then,
For your lamenting? What Cithaeron-peak
Shall not be resonant soon, when you discern
What hymen-song was that, which wafted you
On a fair voyage, to foul anchorage
Under yon roof? And multitudes besides
Of ills you know not of shall level you
Down to your self –down to your children! Go,
Trample on Creon, and on this mouth of mine;
But know, there is not one of all mankind
That shall be bruised more utterly than you.
Oedipus  What fathers? Stop! Who was it gave me being?

Tiresias  This day shall give you birth and death in one.


  1. 1.La pasión por saber es lo que arrastra a Edipo al desastre. Es bastante inquietante esto, ¿no? Los hombres inteligentes del XVIII llamaron Ilustración a su búsqueda del conocimiento, confiados en que éste era el camino a la felicidad. Pero esas luces del conocimiento han atraído a los hombres demasiado a menudo como polillas... o como Edipos, directos al desastre.
    2. Hay una actualización del mito de Edipo a la que he aludido recientemente en Me refiero a la película "El corazón del ángel", donde el detective Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) investiga por las calles de Nueva Orleans unos asesinatos de los que él mismo es partícipe.
    3. He llegado aquí por casualidad, pero me da que voy a frecuentar este sitio bastante. Enhorabuena por tu blog.

  2. Estimado Ricardo, en principio te agradezco que te hayas ¨unido al grupo´, como verás este blog es nuevo, tengo otro de arquitectura y urbanismo (link a la derecha). No había visto tu comentario aún y entré al blog de zapatosdeanteazul a través de tu perfil, realmente me gustó pero no tuve tiempo de detenerme a leer. Voy a entrar en otro momento a leer el post de la película de Mickey Rourke, porque esa película la ví un par de veces y es una de mis preferidas, dicho sea de paso, siento encanto por New Orleans, todavía no he ido (ya iré, es una asignatura pendiente caminar por Bourbon St). No había hecho la relación del mito de Edipo con la película, pero ahora que lo mencionás, es una idea lógica, interesante. Me alegra que te guste el blog, a veces posteo en inglés porque no quiero quitar la esencia del escrito original.
    Seguimos en contacto,


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