A minor character is a character that is developed in such a way to help reveal themes and depict certain literary devices. Literary devices are used in mostly all literary works, as they can help reveal pertinent information and also move the story along. In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the minor character of Teiresias is responsible for foreshadowing Oedipus’ fate, developing the theme of blindness, and also illustrating dramatic irony. Teiresias uses his fortune teller abilities to foreshadow the anguish and destruction that Oedipus will encounter after he learns the truths of his life. Teiresias is also responsible for further developing the theme of blindness by using his own physical blindness to reveal to Oedipus his mental blindness. Lastly, Teiresias is ultimately responsible for imposing dramatic irony because of his great knowledge of the truth of Oedipus. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, the character of Teiresias is developed in such a way that he utilizes many dramatic devices in order to reveal information and move the play along.
As a fortune teller, Teiresias is able to see the fate and destruction of Oedipus’ life. Teiresias uses his great ability to reveal to the reader the downfalls in Oedipus’ life that will soon occur because of his quest to know his fate. The character of Teiresias demonstrates the use of foreshadowing in order for the reader to be aware of Oedipus’ fate.You can not see the wretchedness of your life, Nor in whose house you live, no, nor with whom. Where are your father and mother? Can you tell me? You do not even know the blind wrongs that you have done them, on earth and in the world below. But the double lash of your parents’ curse will whip you out of this land some day, with only night upon your precious eyes. Your cries then—where will they not be heard? Sophocles, 403-410This passage foreshadows the destruction and misery that will be a part of Oedipus’ life soon. Teiresias also foreshadows the self-mutilation and destruction of Oedipus.
The following quotation clearly displays the use of foreshadowing by Teiresias, ‘…with only night upon your precious eyes.’; Sophocles, 408-409 The preceding quotation foreshadows the self- destruction that Oedipus will commit because of the blindness that he holds towards his past and his fate. Teiresias explains to Oedipus that even though he can physically see now, in the future he will be blinded because he has learned the truth of his life. Teiresias clearly utilizes foreshadowing to illustrate the downfalls that will occur in Oedipus’ fated life.Teiresias further develops the theme of blindness in Oedipus Rex. Teiresias is a blind man who can actually see the fated outcome of Oedipus’ life. Even though Oedipus has full use of his physical vision, he is completely blind of his past and his fate. Teiresias uses his own physical blindness to make Oedipus aware of his own mental blindness towards the truths of his life. Teiresias reveals to Oedipus that it is Oedipus’ physical sight that deters him from seeing the truths of his past.
The proceeding passage illustrates the theme of blindness as revealed by Teiresias to Oedipus. ‘Listen to me. You mock my blindness, do you? But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You can not see the wretchedness of you life…’; Sophocles, 400-403 This quotation clearly depicts the development of the theme of blindness, as Teiresias is telling Oedipus that even though he can see physically he is blinded by his quest to know the truth of his life. Teiresias tells Oedipus that he cannot see the torment that is a part of Oedipus’ life. Teiresias reveals to the reader that to see physically does not mean that you can see mentally, as Oedipus clearly displays towards his past and his fate.Dramatic irony is used to provide the reader with some relief, perhaps comical, through the use of knowledge from one character or even the reader that another character is oblivious to which, in turn, creates an ironic situation or atmosphere. Irony is displayed throughout Oedipus Rex and is ultimately displayed by Teiresias. Teiresias, who is completely blind physically can still see the ‘wretchedness’; of Oedipus’ life.
On the other hand, Oedipus, who has complete use of his sight is totally blind to his past and his fate. The extent of Oedipus’ mental blindness is assisted by his ongoing quest for the truths of his life which end up ruining him. It is ironic that a man who is blind physically can see the suffering and madness that will come to Oedipus in the future due to his ongoing drive for knowledge. ‘A blind man, who has his eyes now…Brother and father–the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband—the very same who came to his father’s bed, wet with his father’s blood.’; Sophocles, 442-448 This passage contains Teiresias revealing his knowledge of Oedipus’ past to him. Oedipus has just learned the truth of his past from a man who cannot see which becomes very ironic to the reader. It is at this point in the play where Oedipus learns that knowledge or sight of his past brings evil, pain, and suffering into his life. It is quite ironic that a man of such a physical disability can still use his mental vision to see the truth and fate of Oedipus.
Irony is by Teiresias many times in this play. It is especially evident when Oedipus and Teiresias are first speaking to each other. ‘I say that you live in shame with those most dear to you. You can not see the evil.’; Sophocles, 353-354 Teiresias informs Oedipus of the evil that is seen within his life. Teiresias’ words said to Oedipus are extremely ironic because even though Teiresias cannot see physically he says he can still ‘see’; the evil within Oedipus’ life. It is also ironic that Teiresias foreshadowed the self-mutilation of Oedipus after he learns the truth of his past and fate. It is ironic that a man who once did not see the truth of his past and fate does not want to see physically because of his great suffering. ‘That were her ornament, and raised them, and plunged them down straight into his own eyeballs, crying, ‘No more, no more shall you look on the misery about me…’; Sophocles, 1236-1239 Since Teiresias had revealed to Oedipus his past, Oedipus has now found the truth of his life and now that he can see mentally, he cannot endure the suffering that the truth has brought upon him. It is quite ironic that Teiresias, who revealed to Oedipus the truth of his past is blind physically and now that Oedipus has learned the truth, now blinds himself physically because he cannot endure the pain and suffering that his quest for the truth has brought upon him.
Teiresias clearly displays the use of dramatic irony within the play.In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the minor character of Teiresias is responsible for foreshadowing Oedipus’ fate, developing the theme of blindness, and also illustrating dramatic irony. These literary devices used by Teiresias all help contribute to and depict the pain and suffering that is endured by Oedipus. Teiresias applies his knowledge of Oedipus to revealing certain things to the reader and also to other characters in the play. Teiresias is responsible for foreshadowing to the reader the destruction and evil that will be evident in Oedipus’ life once he is aware of the truths of his life. Teiresias also aids in developing the theme of blindness by using his physical inability to reveal to the reader and Oedipus the extent of his quest for knowledge and the evil that it will bring upon his life. Lastly, Teiresias is responsible for demonstrating dramatic irony by using his physical blindness to ultimately reveal to Oedipus his mental blindness. Many people in society today are blind to their past and how the outcome of certain events affect them. Some of these people think that the only way to conquer this blindness is to seek out the truths of their past in order to lead a more fulfilled life.