Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus

"Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus." in Ancients and Moderns, 1-15, New York, Basic Books, 1964. Reprinted in The Argument of the Action, 2000.


“The crippled Oedipus, we must imagine, appears before the Thebans leaning on a staff, a staff that indicates as much his present authority as the use he once made of it to kill his father. The staff or scepter is thusy triply significant: a support for his infirmity, a sign of his political position, and an instrument for patricide. In two of its uses, the staff points to Oedipus’s strenght, in the other to his weakness; but this weakness no doubt enabled him to solve the riddle of the Sphinx: a man in the prime of life but maimed since childhood and hence “three-footed” before his time saw in himself the riddle’s answer. He now, however, appears before a threefold division of his people, whose enigmatic character he fails to see: “Some have not yet the strength to fly far; some are priests, heavy with old age, of whom I am the priest of Zeus; and some are selected from those still unmarried.”