The Damning Prophecies in Oedipus, Antigone, and Agamemnon
Oracles, seers, and prophets are used in Greek tragedy to provide foreshadowing for the audience and characters. The seers' wisdom is conveyed through the pronouncement of oracles or prophecies. They confer forecasts to principal characters that affect the characters' future. Although not always believed, and often endeavored to be foiled, seers, oracles, and prophets in Greek tragedies foretell events that greatly affect the lives of prominent characters. Cassandra in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, the Oracle at Delphi in Sophocles' Oedipus, and Teiresias in Sophocles' Antigone pronounce damning prophecies that, despite ignorance, evasion, or disregard, are inevitably fulfilled to the downfall and destruction of the characters.
The seer Cassandra in The Agamemnon foretells the downfall and destruction of Agamemnon. Cassandra delivers several predictions of Agamemnon's impending death. "Agamemnon's dead is what you'll see."[p77] "The room- it reeks! Drips red with murder." p80 She also sees her murder that is unavoidable. "So, then I go / To sing the dirge of my own demise / And Agamemnon's too within the palace." p81 Cassandra's visions are heard by the chorus who are skeptical of her claims. Her visions are not believed by Agamemnon because of a curse set on her by the Greek god Apollo.
Agamemnon is oblivious to her forecasts and believes he will live on and remain king. "So, overborne by you, I shall proceed / To tread the purple to my palace halls." Agamemnon infers that he will be able to safely return to power in his kingdom and is unaware of the treasonous plot calculated by his wife Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, Clytemnestra's lover. Agamemnon does not investigate impropriety even though he had killed his daughter and elicited the vengeance of Clytemnestra. Shortly after Cassandra reveals her visions Agamemnon is murdered by Clytemnestra. Agamemnon cries: "o-oh! I am hit. . . mortally hit. . . within." p82 Agamemnon dies despite his ignorance of the prophecy.
The Oracle at Delphi in Oedipus predicts the downfall and destruction of Oedipus, despite Oedipus' avoidance of the prophecy. Oedipus recalls the Oracle as stating: "that I [Oedipus] was fated to defile my mother's bed, that I should show unto men a brood which they could not endure to behold, and that I should be the slayer of the sire who begot me." When Oedipus learns of the calamitous oracle his immediate intentions are to thwart it. He leaves Polybus of Corinth, whom Oedipus believes to be his father, and travels to Thebes to avoid fulfilling the ruinous prophecy. When he arrives at Thebes Oedipus is falsely assured of his intellect when he solves the riddle of the Sphinx and is appointed king. Oedipus then believes that he has successfully avoided the Oracle.
Oedipus' hubris, impulsiveness, and carelessness compel him to murder the man...