Jaye Austin Williams
Blinding the King, From Oedipus to the Bacchae
Blindness is a theme found in both Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Euripdes’ The Bacchae, but it lends itself to more than just the inability to see, physically. In both plays, questions of accepting truths and, rather, seeing multiple sides to a situation act as blinders to the characters in the plays.
In Oedipus, it is clear that our protagonist is blind to his own doings leading up to the climax of the play when he learns that it was he who killed the king, his very father, and in doing so, became ruler to marry non other than his mother. In this passage we see the lack of putting one and one together for Oedipus when he cannot fathom a villain so dark as to not even respond to death threats: “Leader: Laius was killed, they say, by certain travelers. Oedipus: I know—but no one can find the murderer. L: If the man has trace of fear in him he won’t stay silent long, not with your curses ringing in his ears. O: He didn’t flinch at murder, he’ll never flinch at words.” (Page 152, lines 331-37) What Oedipus does not comprehend is that the “villain” who had slain his father was not so evil and dark that he was not affected by the threats, but because it was himself, who committed the crimes, did not even know that he was in the wrong in the first place, because of his inability to see outside perspectives. He could have easily noted that he had murdered a man in the past and became the king for it, and conveniently he was “orphaned” as a child. The oracle even tells him so: “You with your precious eyes, you’re blind to the corruption of your life, to the house you live in, those you live with—”(Page 155, lines 470-73).
There’s a tad different spin on the blindness in The Bacchae, however, for the women in the play cannot see to what affect their professions of faith to Dionysius has on the greater community. When the messenger explains Pentheus’ gruesome...