Prophecy and Suicide in Oedipus Rex

Decent Essays

Galileo Galilei is a man whose unwavering pursuit of the truth in a time of dogmatism and theocratic conformity, has cemented his legacy for over four centuries. His discoveries have been a stellar paradigm for today’s scientific community. When he published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, proclaiming heliocentrism - Copernicus’ theory that the planets revolved around a stationary sun - was the undisputed truth, he was tried by the Inquisition, which found him "vehemently suspect of heresy". He was sentenced to house arrest ‘unto death’. Though the veracity of his claims was later confirmed, this demonstrates that knowledge is a burden, for Galileo’s insight led to his persecution. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.” This theory also applies to the case of Oedipus Rex, where his knowledge of the oracle proves hazardous instead of rewarding. Similar to Galileo, though Oedipus’ insight is true, it encumbers the bearer. Oedipus’ knowledge of the prophecy is more so a burden than a benefit, because it led to his wife, Jocasta’s suicide and his all-consuming guilt.

Oedipus is the cause, albeit indirectly, of Jocasta’s death. He did not obey her warning. She knew the nature of their incestuous relationship and exhorted him against speaking to the messenger and shepherd; the truth would ultimately threaten their marriage. Her problem was not with the misdeed - it was with Oedipus’ awareness, for she assured him, “”Have no

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