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The Dichotomy of Sight in Oedipus at Colonus Essay

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The Dichotomy of Sight in Oedipus at Colonus

A simple process formed the backbone of most Greek philosophy. The ancients thought that by combining two equally valid but opposite ideas, the thesis and the antithesis, a new, higher truth could be achieved. That truth is called the synthesis. This tactic of integrating two seemingly opposite halves into a greater whole was a tremendous advance in human logic. This practice is illustrated throughout Oedipus at Colonus in regard to Sophocles’ portrayal of vision, sight, and the eye. In Colonus, there are many and varied descriptions of the aspects of the eye, whether the eye be human or divine. To Sophocles, the eye must have been a synthesis, both physical and spiritual, yet
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Also, since the characters are only mortal, there are things that remain beyond the range of their sight. When speaking of the Furies, the Chorus moans, “Those whom we tremble to name. When we pass we avert our eyes - Close our eyes! - ” (88) When Tiresias beholds the glory of the passing of Oedipus the messenger reports that it was more than he could bear. “We turned around - and nowhere saw that man (Oedipus), But only the king, his hands before his face, Shading his eyes as if from something fearful, Awesome and unendurable to see.”

Another revealing example of irony intertwining with sight deals with Polyneices. Antigone pleads, begs Polyneices to relent of his hatred of Thebes and call off the war that will destroy so many men, but Polyneices refuses. Antigone cries, “Sweet brother! You go with open eyes to death!” (154) This is a powerful condemnation, for Polyneices lacks vision in the sense that he cannot discern what is proper. The Greeks must have considered the act of seeing an the interplay of the mental, spiritual and the physical. Divine sight reveals another aspect of the conceptions of Sophocles and the Greeks. The gods were thought to have perfect sight. The analysis of divine sight, the type of vision Sophocles considered admirable, should shed light on his intentions. The eyes of the gods are unlike those of men; they deal primarily with the spiritual. “Think: their
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