Truth and Teiresias in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Al-Hakim's King Oedipus

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Truth and Teiresias in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Al-Hakim's King Oedipus

In both "Oedipus Rex" and "King Oedipus," Teiresias is defined by his relationship to the truth: in Sophocles' play as a courier, in Tawfiq Al-Hakim's as a manufacturer. Sophocles Teiresias is a conduit, a vessel through which the truth of a future created by the gods can be revealed, while the modern Teiresias is actively engaged in creating, shaping, the truth out of a supposed spiritual vacuum. These differing roles place both characters at a certain distance from their actions and sense of responsibility. Based, to a great extent, on this proximity, each Teiresias develops a radically different concept of the truth. Though the characters themselves are
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Too well I know and have forgot this, or would not have come" (ln 316-18, p.125). He knows all too well that he is trapped in a role he is compelled to complete. He is a slave to Apollo, not to Oedipus (ln. 410, p. 127). Teiresias' slavery to the truth distances him morally from any negative effects of the truth. Thus, once provoked, Teiresias performs his duties zealously with what Oedipus notes as a sense of joy (ln. 369-70, p.126). This is precisely because Teiresias will not be held accountable for the truth he conveys. Though initially pained to deliver it, the messenger will not be killed for his message.

In Al-Hakim's play, however, messenger and message are intimately connected. Teiresias is both author of the message and the messenger. He creates the truth in which Theban society exists. In the absence of an absolute divine truth in Teiresias' mind, the truth becomes malleable; it can be shaped by the force of one's will. " I see nothing. And I see no god in existence save our own volition. I willed and to that extent was divine...that you [Oedipus] are on the throne is nothing other than a manifestation of my will" (89,90). Teiresias is cast also in the role of scientist, actively testing his hypotheses on the world around him. His refusal to aid Oedipus is one of his experiments "I am withdrawing my hand this time in order to see what will happen" (88). By refusing to interfere, he attempts

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