Blindness is often used in literature to show blindness, blindness of the eye and blindness of the mind. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King blindness can be seen as a metaphor for blindness of both sight and knowledge. The play starts with Tiresias prophesying that Laius would die at his son’s hand; he also predicts that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother before learning who they are. These predictions come true when Oedipus kills Laius on the road and then marries Jocasta (his mother).
Writers employ a variety of literary devices to express their work in literature. Blindness is addressed in Sophocles’ Oedipus (the play’s original name was Oedipus Tyrannus) and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. People who are blind may be physically blind, unable to see their surroundings; on the other hand, people with physical sight may be ‘blind’ to reality or truth.
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Surprisingly, those who are physically blind often have a special ability to see things that the sighted cannot. Physically blind people in most cases can see into the future. irony surrounds seeing as a problem for the sighted; ironically, they are “blind” to the future or current reality and truth. This paper explores blindness in Oedipus Rex and Hamlet because both characters suffer from physical impairment and inability to perceive or accept reality among the sighted. There are two sorts of blindness: metaphorical and literal.
Blindness in Oedipus Rex
Blindness is one of the major tragic themes in Oedipus Rex. As previously stated, Sophocles’ play explores blindness from two perspectives: physical blindness and the inability to see what is true for the seeing. Teiresias is blind but serves as a prophet; he represents truth. King Oedipus, on the other hand, is sighted; however, he can’t see reality even though he makes himself physically blind towards the conclusion of the play. Jocasta’s situation is similar; she’s visibly sighted yet oblivious to reality. Even after learning the facts, she continues to deny them.
As a result, in this drama, Oedipus and Jocasta are “blind” to the truth, whereas Teiresias is able to see it. Physically seeing comes at a cost of honesty, while knowing the reality comes at a loss of vision. When Oedipus gouges his eyes after finding out the truth, he demonstrates that fact. It appears that truth and physical sight are mutually exclusive. King Oedipus is undoubtedly the greatest sufferer of “truth” blindness, which serves as an emblem for avoiding and refuting unpleasant facts.
Oedipus the King: Summary
Oedipus is destined for tragedy from the outset of the play. His life begins on a bad note after a prophecy reveals that he would marry his mother after murdering his father. “An oracle predicted that the child born to him by his queen Jocasta would kill his father and marry her” (Johnston 2). Laius and Jocasta, however, are metaphorically blind to this fact and seek to avoid reality by sending him away to the mountains, where they hope Oedipus will perish, invalidating the prediction.
Fortunately, a shepherd rescues Oedipus and brings him to Polybus and Merope for adoption. When Oedipus learns of his oracle, he flees from his adoptive parents believing they are his real parents. Unfortunately, on the way there, he encounters his true father, Laius, who is immediately killed. After that, Oedipus ascended the throne of Thebes as king. It is as king that he marries without realizing it was himself whom he married until much later.
As the prophecy is fulfilled, the theme of fate and free will grows; disregarding facts does not alter them. A calamity strikes Thebes at this time, and Oedipus seeks out Teiresias, the blind prophet who recognizes that the Theban sufferings are caused by a polluter within the Kingdom. Teiresias ironically comments that “you who are accursed pollutor of this land” (Sophocles Para 45). The polluter is Oedipus. At this stage, Oedipus’ blindness is obvious as he refuses to accept it.
Oedipus, on the other hand, cannot control this oracle. He exclaims, ‘Vile slanderer! Thou utterest these abuse,’” (Sophocles Para. 46). This indicates further ‘blindness’ to the truth. He learns the reality and decides to blind himself as a result; Oedipus Rex gouges his eyes out and goes completely blind. It is true that Oedipus is sightless in many respects, as indicated by this short summary. To begin, he is oblivious to the fact that Polybus and Merope were not his real parents. He was so ignorant that anyone could claim Laius and Jocasta are his parents (Bates para 6). Some critics believe this does not constitute blindness since Oedipus was unaware. The issue here is that regardless of whether or not he knew and disregarded the truth, Oedipus was blind because he was unable to see or understand it.
As the action progresses, Oedipus begins to comprehend the truth, and he ultimately understands that he is the polluter. When Oedipus understands that he killed Laius, his father, and married Jocasta, his mother, it’s clear where all of Thebes’ problems came from. As this knowledge dawns on him and reality takes precedence over lies, he goes blind. This is why physical sight does not coexist with acceptance of truth in this drama. Oedipus’ loss of vision is an important component of this drama.
It is a Greek tragedy, and each Greek tragedy was supposed to conclude with the main characters experiencing their own personal calamity. (Foster, 111) Oedipus’ physical blindness represents his own suffering as part of this Greek drama. This Greek drama reaches its conclusion when the truth is revealed and Oedipus becomes physically blind.
This action was intended to verify Teiresias’ forecast that Oedipus would come to Thebes as a seeing man but depart as a blind one (3). Oedipus’ physical blindness reestablishes his vision. By keeping him away from viewing his sins and mistakes, physical blindness allows him time to ruminate on what he has done and how it relates to Teiresias’ words. Oedipus has opportunity in physical blindness to think about Laius’ death, Jocasta’s marriage, and other things he has done in his life.
Jocasta, on the other hand, is able to see and knows the facts; nevertheless, she deliberately chooses to ignore them. His present physical blindness, which resulted from a weakness of will, causes him suffering in much the same way as his previous spiritual blindness. The bodily agony he endures is comparable to that which he inflicts on himself owing to his inability to recognize reality. Jocasta has eyesight and understands the facts; however, she intentionally chooses to reject them.
Jocasta’s awareness of the reality of Oedipus’ prediction is another example of blindness; however, she believes and thinks that he has died. Even though at first she does not know that her new husband is her son Oedipus, once she understands it, she decides to ignore it. This is a case of denial. She dismisses the entire issue as a “hoax” after realising that she had been involved in the whole story. Eternal blindness follows her into this form of blindness.
She kills herself when she understands the prophecy about Oedipus has come true; as a result, she is destined to live in perpetual blindness. “Jocasta’s blindness eventually led to her disgrace” (Bates Para 14). She is deprived of sight and choice in death. The notion of blindness continues to reveal itself, much like how Oedipus loses his sight after knowing and acknowledging the truth, Jocasta loses her life after confessing the truth. Oedipus is driven away from his kingdom at the end, which becomes his final sentence. He curses his two sons and departs.
Teiresias is blind, but he can see into the future and link it to the past. His physical blindness gives him a gift: the ability to have visions. He understands that Oedipus is responsible for Thebes’ pollution. He knows that Oedipus murdered Laius and Jocasta is his mother. In order to suggest that sighted people have no advantage over those who are physically blind when it comes to recognizing and acknowledging reality, Sophocles attempted to imply as much with this line of dialogue between Teiresias and Oenomaos: “Mnemonics aid not one who sees” (lines 724-725).
The sighted Oedipus characters can see everything else, even truth; the physically blind can only see the truth. People have a propensity to ignore the facts even after they are aware of them; nevertheless, as previously said, changing reality is difficult. This awareness dawns on Jocasta when she realises that she cannot overlook the facts any longer; death is the only secure option, but it is unfortunately unavoidable. As a result, throughout the play there is a contrast between sight and blindness.
Blindness in Hamlet
The characters in this play are ignorant of the truth. The author emphasizes on blindness and seeing. Sight is a major theme in the beginning of the play, with issues surrounding it taking center stage in many of the acts: “Look where it comes again… Looks like not the king… It appears to be stalking away.” (Shakespeare para 6-9). Despite their emphasis on sight, these people act blindly. Horatio, for example, will not consent to what he cannot verify until he sees something that he fails to achieve with his eyes.
During the play, numerous people are seeing something but can’t perceive it. Hamlet, on the other hand, is the most harmed character due to his blindness and melancholy. Despite being able to see physically, Hamlet is unable to comprehend reality or truth owing to his mental problems and sadness. This feature causes him to be “more precise and inquisitive in pondering the details of things” (Bright 99).
Hamlet’s “blindness” induces him to pretend to establish the ultimate truth behind each fact, which preoccupies and deceives him into believing he can perform an ocular test on everything to discover the absolute truth in every statement. Hamlet’s blindness is driven by his desire to find the absolute truth through visual testing, and this causes him to be inactive on many occasions. Hamlet fails to avenge his father’s death because he is unable to discover evidence of Claudius’ guilt. Many experts have claimed that Hamlet is “a man without eyelids—unwilling to look, yet unable to keep his eyes closed” (415). In reality, it appears that Hamlet has no eyes.
This is apparent when Ophelia encounters him and comes to the conclusion, “Hamlet seems to find his way without his eyes” (Shakespeare Para. 99). This statement emphasizes Hamlet’s blindness. He does not appear to use his physical eyes; instead, it appears that he uses the eye of his intellect to see. This is true, not just in the sense that he frequently claims to utilize his physical eyes. He is simply preoccupied with providing visual evidence via his “mind’s eye” (Shakespeare Para. 201)
The fear of blindness has driven Hamlet’s imagination insane, for he cannot see anything through his physical eyes without first passing them through the ocular test of his mind’s eye. In principle, Hamlet is physically blind. Those who are unable to see with their physical eyes have no advantage over those who are totally blind. Hamlet belongs in this category, even though he has eyes; nevertheless, owing to his deficiency of sight, he is not able to see clearly enough.
As the play draws to a close, Hamlet’s eyesight appears to have deteriorated significantly. Shakespeare, on the other hand, attempted to expose a different kind of blindness. According to Hoy, as the play begins, Hamlet has sound judgment and adequate understanding of what may prevent people from making good decisions (214). He comments,” It does not appear that way? In fact, it is so.”
“The clothes and the suits of woe are but the trappings and disguises of human misery. The costume may be beautiful, you know; it is only a guise to cover nakedness or hideousness” (Shakespeare Para. 21-6). From Hamlet’s comments, it becomes clear that he knows what appears from what is. What appears to be true or false can be either real or fraudulent; nevertheless, the truth remains reality. Something must have occurred for this king to lose his ability to discern truth from deception.
The ghost’s appearance can explain Hamlet’s present blindness in making judgments. The ghost notes that “Hamlet, by a brother’s hand, of life, of crown, and queen was slain…sleeping within his orchard…that one may smile and smile while being a villain” (59-109). Hamlet’s capacity to see physically is altered by these words. Greenblatt claims the ghost teaches Hamlet that his physical condition is not an immediate reflection of his internal reality, and this sets him on a quest to verify everything he sees in order to ensure it matches what he knows. He strives to bring the external and internal together, at which point his eyes become useless.
Hamlet’s Blindness and Its Impact on His Judgement
He is blind to his own virtues; for example, he may recall the image of his dead father in his head, but when a friend tells him that he saw Hamlet’s father the previous night, he does not believe it. He cannot tell the difference between mental images and reality. He believes everything he sees in his mind’s eye to be genuine.
For example, he is certain that his father takes on the shape of a ghost before seeing the ghost because, in his imagination, he has already seen the ghost. As a result, rather than relying on his physical eyes to form a conclusion, Hamlet relies on this mental eye instead, rendering his physical eyes useless and blind. Hamlet demonstrates his blindness by using his mind’s eye rather than his real eyes in some cases.
Exposing Claudius’ guilt in order to demonstrate it After Hamlet plants the fake news of his father’s murder, he works at establishing him as guilty by “playing players / Play something like the killing of his father” (Shakespeare Para. 361-3). He hopes that his uncle will appear suspicious, thus incriminate himself for murdering Hamlet’s father. This is irrelevant since Hamlet utterly fails in his effort to empirically establish Claudius’ guilt.
Hamlet is a character who believes that the inside is linked to the outside, and he hopes Claudius will reveal what lies hidden within. This does not happen; nevertheless, Hamlet’s blindness becomes apparent as a result of his inability to perceive reality. He even doubts his eyesight, and he asks Horatio to keep an eye on how Claudius behaves during the play. Shakespeare employs this motif purposefully to demonstrate that even though individuals have sight, it may be misused in many cases since they see what they want to see rather than reality.
Finally, Hamlet’s inability to perceive reality is evident in scene three of the play. Even though he sees Claudius prostrate himself to pray and seek forgiveness for his crimes, Hamlet refuses to accept his guilt and believes that now is not the time to kill him. “To see is to perceive evil, just as not to see is to be at the mercy of it,” notes Aronson (424). Hamlet refuses to look because he cannot establish Claudius’s guilt. As a result, he has only useful sight for seeing evil—he does not see anything else. “Although the prince shows an intense focus on obtaining visual proof of his uncle’s guilt, he is nonetheless comparable to a man without eyes since he is unable to truly observe” (Paraphrase 9).
Blindness in Oedipus Rex & Hamlet: Conclusion
In the plays Oedipus the King and Hamlet, physical blindness and a failure to perceive reality are recurring themes. Because of his blindness, Oedipus is unable to recognize truth. He marries his mother and kills his father since he is blind to their identity. After gaining insight into reality, he gouges his eyes out, becoming physically blind.
Jocasta, on the other hand, is fully aware of the facts but chooses to “blind” herself to them; as a result, she kills herself. Teiresias is blind from birth, yet he can see reality. Hamlet’s eyesight allows him to see, yet he prefers to use his mental vision rather than his physical eyes. As a result, his functional eyes become ineffective and go blind. Sighted persons have the option of choosing to be blind to truth and reality.
In many countries throughout the world, ignorance is treated as an important political issue, family problem, personal debate, and so on. This blindness of the intellect may be represented as such. In Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King, Oedipus’ relatives and friends express their own blindness in not wanting to know the truth about his damaged history. They hide things from Oedipus and ultimately deprive themselves of life’s facts.
To conclude, in the play Oedipus Tyrannos, Sophocles warns us that love can blind people to reality. He then expands on the blindness, showing how when the truth comes out, it draws the affection someone has for another into shadow. Love is delicate; it is easily destroyed when exposed, causing families to break apart when it emerges. In establishing his work, Oedipus and Jocasta appear to be a typical royal couple with normal children.
Jocasta and Orestes are in love with each other, blissfully ignorant of the truth. As a result of sinful prophecy that her son would one day kill Laius and marry her, as told by an oracle, Jocasta is a lesson on what she did to him as a consequence of this. In the end, she confesses that they secured their son’s ankles and abandoned him on a mountain to perish. “[…] My child/ no more murdered his father than Laius was murdered—his wildest dread—death at the hands of his own son” (794-796).
‘Blindness has a two-fold role in Oedipus the King, by Sophocles. ‘; Blindness is first seen as a physical disability affecting Teiresias the auger, and later on as Oedipus; but subsequently blindness becomes synonymous with an inability to recognize one’s wrongdoing and the consequences that ensue. The irony of this situation lies in the fact that while Oedipus possesses exceptional eyesight, he is blind to himself, whereas Teiresias, who is blind physically yet able to see evil to which Oedipus has succumbed.
Sadly, as Oedipus matures inside and gains an internal sense of sight, he rejects his former sense of sight. Sight, therefore, appears to be a choice between good and evil: a person may only pick one. However, what set Teiresias apart from the others was his genuine concern for others, which he expressed before demolishing Oedipus in front of a crowd of spectators who had gathered outside the palace. For Teiresias, it was straightforward; he deliberately renounced his disability in order to delve further into himself in order to discover a sight beyond his physical limitations, one that would bring good.
Oedipus, on the other hand, was not given an easy option. While endowed with a physical sense of sight, he lacked the awareness of his own transgressions – his hamartia, if you will. Oedipus was blind to himself while attending to others. As he ran from Corinth, fearing a prophesy that came from an oracle, Oedipus demonstrated complete denial of his fate’s inevitability.
Oedipus’ blindness is emphasized by his father’s murder and the subsequent marriage to Jocasta, which serves as a parenthesis. Oedipus’ blindness may be characterized in terms of action, logic, and consequence. While Jocasta/Oedipaeonia kills herself alongside their mother/wife , Oedipus finds out that he is not who he believed himself to be. Oedipus makes his transition complete as he gives up his physical eyesight for the spiritual vision of Teiresias, filling his heart with despair and expanding his pupils. Oedipus seals his fate by no longer being able to do evil after completing this operation.
Blindness is a key theme in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, which occurs over and over. Outside of the play, there are several examples of this pattern, but the most apparent is represented by Oedipus and Tiresias. Despite being blind, Oedipus is unable to recognize reality. Tiresias, the prophet, is physically blind yet sees more truth in actions and proclamations than Oedipus does.
The theme of blindness in Oedipus the King by Sophocles aids in the dramatic irony and tragic elements of the play. Many meanings might be derived from blindness. Due to his inability to discover who his parents were, he is blinded by reality. This figurative blindness is then pushed all the way to where Oedipus becomes furious if someone utters the oracle’s prediction or its probable truth.
Tiresias informs us that Oedipus “live[s] in abomination with those who are dearest to [him], and he cannot see the evil” (321). Although Tiresias begins by implying certain circumstances, Oedipus remains oblivious and totally blind. Tiresias is unable to contain himself any longer, so he starts disclosing information from the prophecy, proving that Oedipus is “blind… [and] cannot see the misery of his existence” (322). As the plot unfolds, the truth emerges and is forced on Oedipus.
The blinding of Oedipus is physicalized in this context. The blindness is attributed to Oedipus, who it was revealed caused the city of Thebes’ problems. Near the conclusion of the tragedy, when Oedipus has discovered everything, he gazes up into the sky and praises “the light [and] looks at it for the final time” (354). Mental pictures replace actual sight as a result of this fact, leaving Oedipus unable to see reality with his tangible eyes.
When a person is completely blind, they come to the conclusion that they will be permanently sightless. They will pick up new ways of moving about the world and dealing with terrible news. There is nothing a person who is blind to reality can do until they learn the truth and begin to live with it.
When people discover the truth, they commonly become haughty and believe that nothing could be true. This is precisely what happens in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King with regard to Jocasta and Oedipus. figuratively blinded Both metaphorically and literally blind, Oedipus is unable to discern either himself or the world around him. To cure his figurative blindness, he physically blinds himself by “looking straight up into [the] points [and] [digging] them down the sockets of his eyes”.
Oedipus, learning the truth about his figurative blindness, resolves to kill himself. Blindness leads to reality, which ultimately results in blindness. Oedipus is forced to face the consequences of the oracle’s prediction and everything that has happened. He blinds himself as a form of punishment and a warning for “the pain for all to see.” All three characters were once blind: Jocasta, Tiresias, and Oedipus.