Study Guide to Sophocles' Oedipus the King:
Imagery to Keep Track Of
The imagery of "revelation"
As you read the play, make marginal notes that indicate places where the ideas associated with the concept of "revelation" (coming into evidence or bringing into evidence, bringing to know or coming to know) come into play. These include:
- the idea of forecasting.
- This includes not only prophesying in the formal sense but anticipating the future in general.
- the idea of "bringing to light" something "hidden" or "in darkness."
- Notice that this includes the idea of "birth," considered as "coming into evidence." (Compare the idiom in Spanish for giving birth: dar a luz -- "give to light.")
- the idea of "discovering": "uncovering" something that is "covered up."
- Notice that this includes the idea of "apocalypse" or "tearing apart a veil or cloak."
- the idea of interrogation (and the contrary idea of holding back what one knows -- the silence of either tact or deceit as distinct from the silence of ignorance).
- the idea of "shining forth."
- This includes the idea of "manifesting one's nature and worth," "showing what one is made of."
- the idea of "insight" or "seeing into" (and the contrary idea of "blindness") and "looking."
- Notice that "seeing" in the play is sometimes expressed / thought of as a kind of "penetrating," as if sight were a matter of a "beam" projecting outward like an arrow that can hit or miss its target.
- This means that archery metaphors are worth taking stock of. (Interesting, eh, that the god behind the Delphic Oracle is Apollo, the god of archery. Where do we hear Oedipus described in archery terms?)
- the ideas of "listening" and "hearing" (and the contrary idea of "deafness").
- the idea of "experience" -- that which, if one has it, has enabled one to come to know something.
The imagery of "command and control"
Another family of ideas worth keeping an eye out for (and marking in the margin), even in your initial reading, is those having to do with the notion of "being in charge" and "making things go as planned." These include:
- the idea of "being an authority".
- the idea of giving orders.
- the idea of navigating, steering a ship.
- the idea of hunting prey (cf. archery: taking aim and hitting a target).
- the idea of exploiting agricultural land: plowing, weeding, harvesting, etc.
- the idea of managing a house: sweeping, etc.
- the idea of diagnosing and treating an illness: dispensing therapy.
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This page last updated 24 September 2002 .