Ignorance is bliss?

Human beings are creatures of habit: We fight, question, and challenge. Seek power, freedom and knowledge. In the case of ‘Oedipus the King’, Oedipus embodies all these traits in the play as he attempts to defeat fate, save his people, and bring justice to his kingdom. However, feats such as these would be deemed far to great for any man. Thus leading us to the inevitable ending of the play where Oedipus fails to beat fate and in a sense the gods at which point he is left; stripped of his power, blind and crippled.


Nevertheless, this inevitability is challenged throughout the play when characters such as Jocasta and the Shepherd beg Oedipus to stop his investigation because his discovery of the truth is what will lead to his downfall. Finally leading to the key argument I’d like to discuss: “If Oedipus remained ignorant, would he still have failed?”


There were many different traits to the play that display that an ignorant approach to the problem could have led to a different result instead of Oedipus’s pre-determined failure and suffering. One of the forms this is shown through is the play’s Sophoclean approach wherein Oedipus brings himself closer to failure each time he gets closer to the truth, ergo the higher we climb, the harder we fall. This foreshadowed failure is even displayed by Oedipus himself in lines 1472-74 “And I, I am afraid to hear them… but I must”. At this point of the play it is clearly indicated that Oedipus has a choice to walk away from his investigation, however Oedipus claims that he can’t which stems from his human nature to question and seek knowledge even when he knows himself it will bring him great misery. Secondly, the moral of the paly is to accept that not everything is controllable, which is why we are given a character such as Oedipus who displays a great amount of hubris and attempts to succeed in areas in which he believes the gods have failed in because he thinks of himself as powerful as the gods. This leads to the ironic discovery that Oedipus is the master of all things, except for himself. Which is why Oedipus’s greatest weakness is himself; if not for his desire to question, fight and challenge fate, Oedipus may still have been able to retain his power as king.

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One Response to Ignorance is bliss?

  1. boming zheng

    The Art of Translation in Oedipus The kings

    Dear Readers

    Due to the fact that I am still having trouble with the website, I will write my blog in the reply section of Zachary’s blog. Sorry for the inconvince caused. After examining Oedipus The King by Sophocles, I was amazed by the idea of fate versus free will. On the other hand, putting aside the theme of the play, I am really interested in the differences between different translations of this play. Before the start of this class, I managed to find another version of Oedipus The Kings translated by David Genre. In David’s version, line 80 was translated as “I have known the story before you told me only too well.” However, the Bookstore version of the same line was “I know what brings you here, I know.”

    One of my favorite TED speakers Chris Bliss once said, “ Every act of translation is an act of communication.” In my humble opinion, as these authors translate Greek into English, they are communicating with Sophocles thousands of years after his death! Although they are unable to physically see Sophocles directing the play himself, they can still see it in their imagination. Meantime, these translators have a certain degree of freedom in terms of sentence structure and word choice. Due to this freedom, we have a great variety of translations to compare and contrast.

    In order to utilize this freedom, each translator needs to have his or her individual purpose or aim. For instance, they might take into account of the demand of target reader. If the reader wants to study the dramatic irony in particular, the translator would try to emphasize that. Some translators even tried to make the language more conversational and easy to memorize, rehearse and perform on stage for the benefits of theatre students.

    In addition to this, translators have to pay attention to the nature of Greek Tragedy itself. After all, the play was written in 5th century BC.

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