Foreshadowing in Oedipus Rex
Note the heavy use of eye- and sight-related imagery in the play. Many characters claim to be able to “see” the truth while others have a more difficult time “seeing” it. Sophocles’ heavy-handed imagery foreshadows a crucial moment at the climax.
Jocasta chides Oedipus for making a fuss over something insignificant. His paranoia of being overthrown coupled with his intense curiosity about the past put him in a state of agitation. He blows things out of proportion and is overly dramatic, and these vices will lead to his downfall.
Oedipus believes in free will; that he can actively work in the present to alter future events. Unfortunately, it seems as if every other character is not as optimistic. There are many references to destiny and the unstoppable will of the gods. As the plot progresses, it only makes Oedipus’s efforts seem futile and in vain. Sophocles makes the audience feel pity for him, as everyone but Oedipus seems to know he won’t have a happy ending.
It is ironic that Tiresias, the blind prophet, accuses Oedipus of not being able to see. Tiresias is a well-respected figure throughout Greek mythology, providing guidance to many kings and heroes. Since Tiresias delivers the will of the gods, Oedipus’s denial can be interpreted as an act of defiance against the gods. He will suffer for his own blindness because of his inability to accept Tiresias's prophecy.
Tiresias points out one of Oedipus’s vices: vanity. Oedipus’s vanity makes him myopic. He is unable to comprehend things that fall outside the scope of his own beliefs, and he will have a difficult time accepting the truth. This quality is similar to hubris, and it possibly foreshadows his downfall.
Oedipus urges his subjects to be motivated by their own moral beliefs to punish the murderer. The significance he places on justice above all else, even if that means exiling his own family, is a noble quality in a king. His reluctance to make exceptions, to make decisions according to the situation at hand, may bring unforeseen consequences.
Recognition of fault will prove to be an important theme in Oedipus Rex. This phrase foreshadows that refusing to accept the truth, or even simple ignorance, will be the downfall of several of the characters.
Oedipus’s extreme altruism is surprising. It is actually very difficult to determine if he is truly the attentive and caring king he claims to be, or if he is selfishly motivated by the feelings of goodwill he might receive. This passage seems to foreshadow a conflict Oedipus might face between his well-being and his people’s.
Considering that the events of this play follow a prophecy, this is a curious statement. It suggests that nothing is concrete, that the future is not necessarily determined by past mistakes, but by how one elects to fix--or ignore--those mistakes. This idea of the variability of the future, as well as the recognition of one’s faults are themes that are brought up again later in the play.