In his quest for truth, Oedipus is a man of constant action. When the priests come to ask for his help, he has already dispatched Creon to the oracle to find out what the gods suggest. When the chorus suggests that he consult Tiresias, Oedipus has already sent for him. Oedipus decides quickly and acts quickly—traits his audience would have seen as admirable and in the best tradition of Athenian leadership. But Oedipus's tendency to decide and act quickly also leads him down a path to his own destruction. He becomes convinced that Tiresias and Creon are plotting to overthrow him, though he has no evidence to prove it.
At several stages where he might have paused to reflect on the outcome of his actions—where he might have sifted through the evidence before him and decided not to pursue the question further, or not in such a public way—he forges onward, even threatening to torture the reluctant shepherd to make him speak. And it is the shepherds words that irrefutably condemn Oedipus. Even here, his will to act doesn't end. Discovering Jocasta, his wife and mother, dead, Oedipus quickly takes his punishment into his own hands and gauges out his eyes.
Action vs. Reflection ThemeTracker
Action vs. Reflection Quotes in Oedipus Rex
you and your birds, your gods—nothing.
No, but I came by, Oedipus the ignorant,
I stopped the Sphinx! With no help from the birds,
the flight of my own intelligence hit the mark.
you will go too far. It's perfect justice:
natures like yours are hardest on themselves.
straight on course. Now again, good helmsman,
steer us through the storm!
quickly, cast me away, my friends—
this great murderous ruin, this man cursed to heaven,
the man the deathless gods hate most of all!