Essay on Oedipus the King: Free Will vs Fate

This essay has a total of 1155 words and 5 pages.

Oedipus the King: Free Will vs Fate


The events in Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, show an underlying relationship of
man's free will existing within the cosmic order or fate which the Greeks believed guided
the universe in a harmonious purpose. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held
responsible for his own actions. Both the concept of fate and free will played an itregal
part in Oedipus' destruction. Although he was a victim of fate, he was not controlled by
it. Oedipus was destined from birth to someday marry his mother and to murder his father.
This prophecy, as warned by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi was unconditional and
inevitably would come to pass, no matter what he may have done to avoid it. His past
actions were determined by fate, but what he did in Thebes, he did so of his own will.


From the beginning of this tragedy, Oedipus took many actions leading to his own downfall.
Oedipus could have waited for the plague to end, but out of compassion for his suffering
people, he had Creon go to Delphi. When he learned of Apollo's word, he could have calmly
investigated the murder of the former King Laius, but in his hastiness, he passionately
curses the murderer, and in so, unknowingly curses himself. "Upon the murderer I invoke
this curse- whether he is one man and all unknown, or one of many- may he wear out his
life in misery or doom! If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth, I pray that I myself
may feel my curse." (pg. 438; lines 266-271)


In order for Sophecles' Greek audience to relate to the tragic figure, he had to have some
type of flaws or an error of ways. This brought the character down to a human level,
invoking in them the fear that "it could happen to them." And Oedipus certainly is not one
without flaws. His pride, ingnorance, insolence and disbelief in the gods, and unrelenting
quest for the truth ultimately contributed to his destuction. When Oedipus was told (after
threatening Teiresias), that he was responsible for the murder of Laius, he became enraged
and calls the old oracle a liar. He ran away from his home, Corinth, in hopes of
outsmarting the gods divine will. Like his father, Oedipus also sought ways to escape the
horrible destiny told by the oracle of Apollo. The chorus warns us of man's need to have
reverence for the gods, and the dangers of too much pride. "If a man walks with
haughtiness of hand or word and gives no heed to Justice and the shrines of Gods despises-
may an evil doom smite him for his ill-starred pride of heart!- if he reaps gains without
justice and will not hold from impiety and his fingers itch for untouchable things. When
such things are done, what man shall contrive to shield his soul from the shafts of the
God?" (pg. 452; 975-984)


Oedipus' unyielding desire to uncover the truth about Laius' murder and the mystery
surrounding his own birth, led him to the tragic realization of his horrific deeds.
Teiresias, Jocasta and the herdsman tried to stop him from pursuing the truth. Take for
example a part of the last conversation between Jocasta and Oedipus. After realizing that
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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