Summary


Teiresias, the blind prophet, reveals the truth about Oedipus's parentage through riddles, saying that Oedipus is father and brother to his children and that he is son and husband to the woman that gave birth to him. Then both Teiresias and Oedipus exit and the Chorus takes the stage. The Chorus wonders who the murderer is and thinks "now is the time for him to run" because the Gods are unhappy with him. The Chorus then imagines the murderer, whom they do not know the name, lurking around in a forest, alone and lonely. Finally, the Chorus expresses its confusion about the whole matter, they do not want to take sides (of Oedipus or Creon) and they cannot deny it nor believe it. Although the Gods are wise and know everything, the Chorus believes there is no real difference between men and thus no real difference between their judgment and that of the prophet.

Vocabulary:
  • Delphi's prophetic rock: an ancient Greek city on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. It is the site of the oracle of Delphi, a priestess who supposedly delivered messages, which were usually obscure or ambiguous, from Apollo to those who sought advice.
  • Parnassus: (also Mount Parnassos). A mountain in central Greece that towers above Delphi. According to Greek mythology, this mountain was sacred to Apollo and the home of the Muses.
  • Pegasus: In Greek mythology, Pegasus, or Pegasos was a winged horse that was the foal of Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and the Gorgon Medusa.

Analysis

This passage shows the deterioration of the good relationship between Teiresias and Oedipus through the revelation of Oedipus's true past. First of all, Teiresias, who is angry because Oedipus questions his skills in prophecy, reveals Oedipus as the murderer in a very harsh way. He refers to Oedipus as "king, this man, this murderer" (448) which in itself, is also a deterioration, but of Oedipus's high status. Second of all, Teiresias mocks Oedipus by using riddles to reveal Oedipus's dark past. For example, instead of outright telling Oedipus that he has married his mother, Teiresias chooses to say "to her that gave him birth, a son and husband both;" (457-458). Because Oedipus is renown for his ability to solve riddles, Teiresias is mocking him by using them to explain what will destroy Oedipus. It is ironic that solving the Sphinx's riddle was what made Oedipus King but solving Teiresias's riddles will reveal his true past and will destroy him. There is also irony embedded in Teiresias's declaration of Oedipus's future through the recurring motif of blindness: The oxymoron "blindness for sight" is, according to Teiresias, Oedipus's future and yet blindness is what Oedipus mocks Teiresias for earlier on.

The Strophe's first paragraph displays the utter faith the people have in the Gods and in Fate. According to them, "the child of Zeus" (469) is "terribly close on [the murderer's] heels" (471) and "the Fates [...] never miss" (472). The Antistrophe's paragraph demonstrates that the people do not think Oedipus is the murderer, as they describe their imagined murderer lurking in savage forests and caverns. Therefore, although the people of Thebes believe in Fate and prophecies, they also have great faith in Oedipus which explains the confusion they feel. They do not know who to believe and cannot "approve what was said nor can [they] deny it" (485-486).