How did Oedipus Solve the Riddle of the Sphinx in Sophocles’ Play?
In Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King, Oedipus talks about his achievement. He converses with the blind seer Tieresias, who understands the language of birds and uses this ability to predict the future. Oedipus says: Her riddle was not something the first man to stroll along could solve – a prophet was required. As he was famous for his wisdom, Oedipus found the answer to the riddle with ease, replying: “Man, who as a baby crawls on four legs, then walks on two legs as an adult and in old age walks with a cane as his third leg ” When Oedipus answered the riddle correctly, the Sphinx was so upset that she fainted and Oedipus went on into Thebes.
Riddle of the Sphinx — According to Greek mythology, the Sphinx sat outside of Thebes and asked this riddle to all travelers who passed by. If the traveler failed to solve the riddle then the Sphinx would kill them. If the traveler answered the riddle correctly, then the Sphinx would destroy herself. The Sphinx was a being with the head of a woman, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of what percent of recruits become marines serpent.
She guarded the entrance to the city of Thebes and would pose a riddle to travellers who aimed to enter. If they could not answer it, she would devour them. Which creature walks on four legs in the morning two legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening? Man walks on 4 legs in the morning crawling as a baby2 legs in the afternoon how to hold mail us postal service upright throughout most of lifeand 3 legs in the evening using a cane in old age.
No one was ever capable of answering correctly… until one day, Oedipus came along. Oedipus was promised the hand of the princess should he interpret the riddle correctly. When Oedipus answered the riddle correctly, how to raise ph in a fish tank Sphinx was so upset that she fainted and Oedipus went on into Thebes. When he got there, the Thebans were very upset because somebody had killed their king, Laius.
But they were happy to hear that Oedipus had figured out the riddle of the Sphinx. So, they made Oedipus their new king. Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes, but when Laius hears a prophecy that he will die at the hands of his how to get rid of fat arms fast, he orders the child to be killed.
When he grows up in Corinth, Oedipus learns of the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother, and thinking that the shepherd and his wife are his real parents, he flees the city in order to ensure such a fate never befalls them — only to run into his biological father, Laius, on his way to Thebes. The two men fight and Laius is killed. The story of Oedipus gave Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, the idea for his theory of the Oedipus complex, where every male child harbors an unconscious desire to do precisely what Oedipus inadvertently did.
But was this the only riddle Oedipus had to solve? Yes and no. But some versions of the Oedipus story have a second riddle for him to solve. What are they? By solving the riddle, we mean, not the — er, other stuff. Perhaps the Sphinx should perhaps have stopped at the first riddle. What riddle does oedipus solve was certainly her stronger material. And she did the right thing in choosing to open with it.
He converses with the blind seer Teiresias, who understands the language of birds and uses this ability to predict the future. Oedipus says: Her riddle was not something the first man to stroll along could solve — a prophet was required.
He also said and there the people saw your knowledge was no use — nothing from birds or picked up from the gods. But then I came, Oedipus, who knew nothing. Yet I finished her off, using my wits rather than relying on birds. From these quotations, it is evident that Oedipus is proud of his success in solving the riddle of the Sphinx. You might judge that this is a pointless question since his encounter with the Sphinx is surely fiction and the myths and plays about him do not provide us with information about this matter.
Nevertheless, we can try to imagine how he solved the riddle and that is what I shall do here. One possibility is that he realized the solution in a flash of inspiration.
But it is not obvious how one would go about arriving at the answer methodically and to my knowledge, there have been no previous efforts to explain how. In this article, I present two accounts of how Oedipus arrived at the answer. The first account as if Oedipus himself were providing us with it. Here is the account. I then decided that the 3 only methodical way to proceed was to consider each kind of creature that I knew of in the hope of finding one which fits the description in the riddle.
I began with the kind of creature that I am: a human being. I observed that a human being goes on twos, but it goes on twos in the morning, the afternoon, and the night. I was about to consider another kind of creature when I thought to myself that there is a stage of life when human beings go on fours. But in that stage, they go on fours whenever they go at all.
I then set aside human beings and considered other kinds of beings. But after I had gone through every kind of creature that I knew, I still had no answer. I reasoned that there were two possibilities: either the answer is a kind of creature unknown to me or else the riddle has no answer. There are some strange kinds of creatures in the world. Before me, was one of them: a creature with the head of a woman, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a serpent.
Some other strange kinds of creature might not be known to me. So I could not rule out the first possibility. But I had no choice except to work with the knowledge I already had, which was little more than average.
So I began to consider the second possibility. Could it be that this riddle has no answer? That would make it no riddle at all. The only way in which I was ever going to make progress, I realized, is if I had grounds to reject the conclusion I had come to: that either the answer is a kind of creature unknown to me or the riddle has no answer.
But how could I reject this conclusion, since I had considered every kind of creature that I knew? I took this question seriously. It occurred to me that there is a way of rejecting it.
I had assumed that the description in the riddle was meant to be taken literally. The only way forward was to abandon that assumption. The possible metaphorical interpretations struck me as potentially endless.
But I am a determined person and was made even more determined by recognizing an 4 oversight in my reasoning. I returned to the kind of creature that I am: a human being. That was the closest I had come to solving the riddle. That was how I solved the riddle. They would regard the observations as so promising that they would search for ways of interpreting the description in the riddle so that human beings fit the description.
That brings us to the second account. It begins in exactly the same way as the first account, but when Oedipus makes these observations, he looks for a way of interpreting the description so that there is a fit and thereby solves the riddle. In both accounts, there are three crucial steps that Oedipus takes towards solving the riddle. First, he decides to proceed by carefully considering each kind of creature that he knows.
Second, he notes that a human being typically moves on fours at an early stage of life and on twos later. Third, he realizes the possibility of a metaphorical interpretation of the description provided in the riddle. Of course, taking these steps would not in itself be enough to solve the riddle, but we would expect a person who takes them and is determined to solve the riddle to arrive at the solution. On both of the accounts given above, the solution arrives by first deciding to consider each kind of creature that one knows, carefully comparing it with the description provided what is the atomic number for iron the riddle.
I doubt that most people would bother to proceed in this way. Almost all people would begin by pausing for what is our economic relationship with biodiversity bit, waiting for the answer to strike them. It is very difficult to obtain an answer like this because whatever mental process is meant to deliver the answer will have to be sensitive to metaphorical how to remove coffee stains from white cotton. When the process does not deliver the answer, I think most people would either start guessing or give up.
It is possible that they would wonder whether the answer is a human being and then, in a flash of inspiration, see that it fits. How to register to vote in pennsylvania I think it is unlikely that someone would focus on what is most near because there is a presumption that very familiar material gets ruled out when one pauses and waits for the answer to come.
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The Sphinx The Sphinx was a being with the head of a woman, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a serpent. Riddle of the Sphinx Which creature walks on four legs in the morning two legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening? The Answer Man walks on 4 legs in the morning crawling as a baby2 legs in the afternoon walking upright throughout most of lifeand 3 legs in the evening using a cane in old age. Legend has it… Oedipus was the first person to answer it correctly.
Oedipus Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes, but when Laius hears a prophecy that he will die at the hands of his son, he orders the child to be killed. But How did Oedipus What causes contractions when not pregnant at the Answer?
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The Sphinx’s riddle:
So the riddle the Sphinx asked Oedipus is: What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening? A man is an adult in the noon — the middle part — of his life and he walks on two feet.
But when a man is old, in the evening of his life, he walks with a cane, on three feet. An older man leaning on a cane, and a younger one on his own two feet. This would be true of women , too, but the Greeks, being Greeks, told it about men only. So the answer is the most important possible thing: a man. Did you find out what you wanted to know about the riddle of the Sphinx?
Let us know in the comments! Greek Theatre , by Stewart Ross Easy reading. Greek and Roman Theater , by Don Nardo. For teenagers. Baker and Charles F. Baker reprinted Short biographies of many famous Greeks including Sophocles. Includes the story of Oedipus. Kitto reprinted A classic discussion of the meaning of Greek tragic plays, by a specialist. Professor Carr, I was hoping to get your thoughts on an alternate solution to The Riddle of the Sphinx, posted academia.
And in any case, the point of riddles is that the answer is hard to see but easy once you get it, which pretty much leaves out sciencey answers. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Riddle of the Sphinx — Oedipus story — Ancient Greece. Cite this page: Carr, K. April 23, About the Author: Karen Carr.
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