Oedipus Rex - Bliss in Ignorance

One of the most memorable and meaningful Socratic quotes applies well when in context of Sophocles\' Theban Trilogy. "The
unexamined life is not worth living," proclaims Socrates. He could
have meant many things by this statement, and in relation to the play,
the meaning is found to be even more complex. Indeed, the situation
of Oedipus, king of Thebes, the truth of this statement is in
question. Would Oedipus have been better off if he was blind to the
knowledge of his birthing and the fate which was foretold to someday
befall him? Truly though, his life would have been a far better and
easier path had he never known about his true origins. His life in

Corinth would have been long and prosperous, and Thebes would have
lived on under King Laius. In fact, everyone would have been better
off in the long run if Oedipus had not ventured out beyond the walls
of Corinth. So is it worth living an examined life?

Socrates had made this statement long after the creation of
the Theban Trilogy. In the context of his own time, this was meant to
imply that life must be examined and reflected upon, known and
discovered by each individual philosopher to better enrich life for
all. Yet in terms of Sophoclean drama, specifically Oedipus Rex, this
was meant in a vastly different way. The unexamined life was one that
was in the dark, unknown as to what fate lied beyond every turn and
irony of living. Oedipus, up to the point in which he heard the
comment in the tavern in Corinth, lived an unexamined life. To

Socrates, he was an unfulfilled man, one who deserved to know more,
one who not complete. However, in a much less metaphysical sense,

Oedipus\' life was complete, in that he had all that he needed, and was
living a happy and fruitful life. As the drama progresses, he finds
out more and more, learning exactly what the implications of his birth
was, he suffers the fate for examining his life. So what Socrates
had meant, that the life which was not rich with self exploration and
reflection was not worth living, was indeed different than its
application in terms of Oedipus, who\'s life was unexamined, yet
complete.

The question arises, what would life have been like, if

Oedipus had not discovered his true origins? If he had stayed in

Corinth, would this have ever happened? We find that indeed, we would
have had no story, if not for that lone comment of a drunkard which
sparked the fire of rebellion in the young prince Oedipus. He
ventured out to Delphi, to pry knowledge of his background out of it,
and to discover if this was indeed the truth, despite the fact that
his adopted parents of Corinth had assured him of it falseness.

Oedipus leaves Corinth, fulfilling the Socratic idea of the unexamined
life. However, we must evaluate the eventual consequences of his
actions and the implications which they possess. What becomes of his
fateful journey out of Corinth leads to the downfall of an entire city
and family line. If he had not murdered King Laius, the Sphinx would
have never descended upon Thebes, he would have never fulfilled the
prophecy, and all would have lived on in a relative peace and
tranquillity.

Once examining these aspects of the relationship between the
quote and Oedipus Rex, we can come to a final examination of its
implications. The question which was addressed, that of the value of
the examined life, can be answered. Indeed, if Oedipus had not
ventured beyond the protective walls of his adopted home, would
anything such as what occurred in the play ever have transpired? If

Oedipus had not pursued that answers to the mysteries that plagued
him, despite the pleading warnings of Iöcasta, in fact his life would
have been contented and happy. Instead, he follows the Socratic
method of exploration and discovery, and proceeds down the path of
pain and distraught. Was, after it was over, all worth it? We find
that no, it was not. Being content and suited with what he knew of
himself would have saved Oedipus and his children/siblings much agony.

However, in the typical Greek tragedy, we must see his fall from
grace through, which is indeed what happens.

In the bliss of ignorance, much pain and difficulty is
averted. For what worries does the ignorant man have? In the case of

Oedipus, ignorance would have suited him fine. The Socratic quote"the unexamined life is not worth living" certainly doesn\'t hold true
in the case of Oedipus Rex. While it may hold