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Oedipus Rex Essay, Research Paper

Matt Wardell

AP Enlgish IV

2nd Period Even

September 8th, 2000

It hurts to know

Knowledge is a great weapon used by society for help, comfort, and most importantly advancement of the human race. Unfortunately, knowledge is often accompanied by sorrow and grief. In the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex Sophocles shows how Oedipus?s thirst for the knowledge of his past leads to his own demise.

Knowledge is not just given to the characters in the tragedy. Oedipus, sincerely and seriously, “must know it all, [and] see the truth at last”(1169). He also most know the percise truth, “what exactly”(1130) happened in his past. Oedipus feels that “The time has come to reveal this once for all”(1153) knowing completely the sorrow the truth may bring. He accepts that there may be grief following the truth shouting “Let it burst! Whatever will, whatever must!”(1183) knowing that the truth may be “something monstrus”(1181). Once Oedipus has been fed a morsel of truth he questions his wife, “What – give up now?, with a clue like this? Fail to solve the mystery of my birth? Not for the world!”(1162). Oedipus seals his own fate when he ask the chorus “Even if god had never urged you on to act, how could you leave the crime uncleansed for so long?”(293). Oedipus is not the only one to quest for knowledge. In the beginning the chorus wants to know “Whose ruthless bloody hands have done the work?”(530) and “Who is the man the voice of god denounces resounding out of the rocky gorge of Delphi?”(522). Jocasta, Oedipus?s wife and mother, is also inquisitive before her moment of recognition. When a messenger from Oedipus’s birth land comes to Thebes she ask, “What have you come for? Have you brought news?”(1021). We, like the characters of Oedipus Rex, are inquisitive even knowing that the truth sometimes can only bring sorrow to us and the ones we love.

Almost every piece of information learned in Oedpius Rex leads to more questions or sorrow. When Oedipus learns of the troubles his people are having he ?grievs for the city?(76) , ?[weeping] through the nights?(78). At Oedipus’s moment of recognition he exclaims “O god – all come true, all burst to light … I stand revealed at last.”(1308). As a direct action of his identity and the knowledge of his wife/mother’s death he

rips off [his wife's] brooches … lifting them high, looking strait into the points [and] he digs them into down the sockets of his eyes yelling ‘ you, you’ll see no more the pain I suffered!’ … [and] over and over raising the pins, raking them down his eyes(1411).

Let alone the extreme physical pain Oedipus suffered he also had an “unspeakable, irreistible headwind”(1452) of “darkness … swirling around [him]“(1451) all atrribitued to his knowledge that he was “cursed at birth, cursed in marrige, cursed in the lives [he] cut down with [his] hands”(1310). As Oedipus was not the only person to inquire for knowledge he was also not the only character to suffer from sorrow. Even the community as a whole suffered from sorrow. After hearing about their king?s great sorrow the chorus “[weeps] like a man who wails the dead and the dirge comes pouring forth will all [its] heart! … and now [Oedipus] bring[s] down night upon [it?s] eyes”(1350). When Oedipus ask to see the herdsman who will lead to the truth Jocasta screams out ?in the name of god, if you love your own life, call of this search! My suffering is enough”(1162). As the characters in the tragedy we too suffer from the knowledge we gain from our personal urge to know everything.

In Oedipus Rex Sophocles has used the tragic character, Oedipus, to show us that an acquisition of knowledge must be accompianed by sorrow. We think that we “must know it all”(1168) no matter the consequence?s be. Every gain of knowledge in Oedipus has a direct consequence, such the queens moment of recognition and her killing her self. Sophocles shows us that if we are going to advance in life and in society then we must learn to live ith the marrige of knowledge and sorrow, which in it self is quite sorrowful.


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