In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the minor character of Tiresias is responsible for foreshadowing Oedipus’ fate, developing the theme of blindness, and also illustrating dramatic irony. Tiresias is responsible for further developing the theme of blindness, by using his own physical blindness to reveal to Oedipus his mental blindness. Lastly, Tiresias is ultimately responsible for imposing dramatic irony because of his great knowledge of the truth of Oedipus.As a fortune teller, Tiresias is able to see the fate and destruction of Oedipus’ life. Tiresias uses his great ability to reveal to the reader the downfalls in Oedipus’ life that will soon occur because of his quest to know his fate. The character of Tiresias demonstrates the use of foreshadowing in order for the reader to be aware of Oedipus’ fate.
Tiresias also foreshadows the self-mutilation and destruction of Oedipus. The following quotation clearly displays the use of foreshadowing by Tiresias, “ I say you know not in what worst of shame you live together with those nearest you, and see not in what evil plight you stand.” (Sophocles, pg 14). The preceding quotation foreshadows the self-destruction that Oedipus will commit because of the blindness that he holds towards his past and his fate. Tiresias explains to Oedipus that even though he can physically see now, in the future he will be blinded because he learned the truth of his life. Tiresias clearly utilizes foreshadowing to illustrate the downfalls that will occur in Oediups’ fated life.
Tiresias further develops the theme of blindness in Oedipus Rex. Tiresias is a blind man who can actually see the fated outcome of Oedipus’ life. Even though Oedipus has full use of his physical vision, he is completely blind of his and his fate. Tiresias uses his own blindness to make Oedipus aware of his own mental blindness towards the truths of his life. Tiresias reveals to Oedipus that it is Oedipus’ physical sight that deters him from seeing the truths of his past. The proceeding passage illustrates the theme of blindness as revealed by Tiresias to Oedipus. “ And since you have reproached me with my blindness, I say – you have your sight, and do not see what evils are about you, nor with whom, nor in what home you are dwelling.” (Sophocles, pg 15). This quotation clearly depicts the development of the theme of blindness, as Tiresias is tell Oedipus that even though he can see physically he is blinded by his quest to know the truth of his life. Tiresias tells Oedipus that he cannot see the torment that is a part of Oedipus’ life. Tiresias reveals to the reader that to see physically does not mean that you can see mentally, as Oedipus clearly displays towards his past and his fate.
Irony is displayed throughout Oedipus Rex and is ultimately displayed by Tiresias. Tiresias, even though completely blind physically, can see the “wretchedness” of Oedipus’ life. On the other hand, Oedipus, who has complete use of his sight, is totally blind to his past and his fate. The extent of Oedipus’ mental blindness is assisted by his ongoing quest for the truths of his life, which end up ruining him. It is ironic that a man who is blind physically can see the suffering and madness that will come to Oedipus in the future due to his ongoing drive for knowledge. “ In the event; for blind instead of seeing, and poor for wealthy, to a foreign land, a staff to point his footsteps, he shall go. Also to his own sons he shall be found related as a brother, though their sire, and of the woman from whose womb he came both son and spouse; one that has raised up seed to his own father, and has murdered him.” (Sophocles, pg 17). This passage contains Tiresias revealing knowledge of Oedipus’ past to him. Oedipus has just learned the truth of his past from a man who cannot see, which becomes very ironic to the reader. It is at this point in the play where Oedipus learns that knowledge or sight of his past brings evil, pain, and suffering into his life. It is quit ironic that a man of such physical disability can still use his mental vision to see the truth and fate of Oedipus. Since Tiresias had revealed to Oedipus his past, Oedipus had now found the truth of his life and now that he can see mentally, he cannot endure the suffering that the truth has brought upon him. It is quit ironic that Tiresias, who revealed to Oedipus the truth of his past in blind physically and now that Oedipus has learned the truth, now blinds himself physically because he cannot endure the pain and suffering that his quest for the truth has brought upon him.
Lastly, Tiresias is responsible for demonstrating dramatic irony by using his physical blindness to ultimately reveal to Oedipus his mental blindness. Many people in society today are blind to their past and how the outcome of certain events affects them. Some of these people think that the only way to conquer this blindness is to seek out the truths of their past in order to lead a more fulfilled life.
Made an A in Literature class at Belhaven College!!