Oedipus the King and The Tragedy of King Lear Essay

1272 Words6 Pages
Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear One of the key themes in both Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is the importance of having a good understanding of our condition as human beings – knowing ourselves, the world that surrounds us and our place in it. At the same time, however, both authors recognize the fact that blindness to this knowledge of the human condition is a basic mortal trait. Thus, before we can have an understanding of the human condition, we must endure a journey to wisdom. The two authors view the journey to wisdom in terms of metaphors of blindness and seeing. Sight is a frequently used metaphor for perception, knowledge and awareness,…show more content…
And, as expected, Lear remains blind to the fact that the praise he receives is more flattery than genuine adulation. Ironically, Goneril even states that her father is ‘dearer than eyesight’[ii], since for the power hungry daughter Lear is far more valuable blind than he would be, if he could see his own condition. Gloucester can not see past the appearances of his children as well, he is blind to Edmund’s deceit and Edgar’s virtue. When learning of Edgar’s apparent intention to conspire against him, Gloucester chooses not to use his own ‘eyes’ to look into the matter, but asks Edmond to do so instead. In Oedipus Rex, much like Lear, Oedipus is blind to his own mortality. He has been deluded by the people of Thebes who hail him, if not ‘the equal of gods’[iii] then certainly ‘the first of men’[iv]. Thus, Oedipus too has developed a self-image that is less than objective. Oedipus learns from the prophet Teiresias, that he is the ‘unclean thing’[v] that needs removal from Thebes. He chooses to remain blind to this truth about his own condition, and turns against the blind Teiresias. Oedipus’ blindness is best demonstrated, when he is juxtaposed with the prophet. When initially addressing Teiresias, Oedipus states that ‘In your heart, if not with the eye, you [Teiresias] see our city’s condition’[vi]. (We as the audience have to accept this as true, since the Ancient Greeks believed in
Open Document