Oedipus – The Black Sheep of Thebes

The idiom “Black Sheep” is used to represent a member of the family or group who is the least reputable. In other words, the traits or behavior of this individual may not be that of which meet the group’s ideal standards and are therefore considered to be disgraceful.In the case of Oedipus’s twisted relationship with his family, he is the black sheep.

A prophecy stated to his parents that he would be the cause of both tragedy and turmoil:  a son murdering his own father and breeding with his beloved mother. This immediately led to the conclusion of disposing Oedipus as an infant, in order to prevent such possibility from occurring and  disrupting the kingdom and family’s opportunity to thrive.  Despite all efforts, the prophecy remained and gradually unraveled as Oedipus grew up to be the king of Thebes. Apollo realized Oedipus would have a negative influence on Thebes to some extent when he described the plague as a “disease that wastes all of you”(p.27).  Simply meaning, Thebes would continue to be riddled with plague and lack the ability to recover so long as Oedipus remained as its ruler.

When the truth of Oedipus’s origin is revealed, the ridiculousness of the prophecy presented before him causes him to pierce his own eyes and become blind. Sophocles describes Oedipus’s blood as a “black storm” (p.82) as if his bloodline is to be represented as a curse which muddies the host and all those around him. Furthermore, Teiresias calls Oedipus a “murderer” (p.40) which illustrates he is guilty for his lack of knowledge when he first committed incest and fulfilled the prophecy at last. It is also ironic and quite tragic how Oedipus desired “justice and vengeance” (p.291) for all of his people, and yet the truth revealed about his origin was much darker and unfair for his children than his own blindness. While Oedipus carries the burden of realizing he is the cause of his own misfortune,  it is his offspring who are forced to confront the reality of where their bloodline truly originates from. Even after his banishment and the plague vanishes, his children must carry the reputation of being disgraceful products of incest for a lifetime.

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