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Oedipus Rex By Sophocles: Tragedy Instead Of A Happy Ending

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Effects of the past have come and affected people’s present as well as their future. In Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, the reader sees how no matter how hard Oedipus himself tried to escape his past, it only caught up him sooner or later. Oedipus was sentenced with a prophecy at birth, due to this prophecy his past catches gig to him throughout time. The prophecy was that Oedipus will kill his father, the king, and marry his mother, the queen. Both his parents wanted to make sure this did not happen, that they would somehow end the prophecy before it became true. By Oedipus, parents trying their best to end the prophecy and that is where the whole mess begins, some readers believe this prophecy would end up happening one way or another. No one can escape their fate, what is meant to be will be. Another thing that in ways ruined Oedipus's life and let things go the way they happened was his tragic flaw, this added a lot of heat to the fire as it is. Oedipus Rex is contended with his past because of his prophecy, his parents, and unfortunately, his tragic flaw, although when Oedipus did do his duties as King and focuses on his parents.

Back in 441 B.C the Greeks strongly believed a person’s fate was determined even before birth. A person’s fate was set in stone and there was nothing anyone can do to change that. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, the main character Oedipus decided to take matters into his own hands as scholars have looked into. As stated in the literary journal Antigone’s Flaw, “Upon hearing the Delphic prophecy of patricide and incest, the well-intentioned Oedipus took radical steps to thwart fate--fleeing his parents and his home in Corinth” (Lines 1999). As soon as Oedipus came to learn about his prophecy and his fate that will soon be upon him, he did everything in his power to stop it. Oedipus believed by running away from who he believed were his parents, would help him stop the prophecy but little did he know that is one of the reasons his prophecy actually came true. The Greeks strongly believe that a person is born with their fate already determined for them and there is nothing a person can do to change your fate. As Oedipus tries to run away from his fate, he finds the King of Thebes who in fact is his real father. Without even knowing it Oedipus kills him, making part of the prophecy come true. After this happens Oedipus becomes the king of Thebes and marries the Queen who is actually his biological mother. As stated once again in the literal journal Antigone’s Flaw, “After Oedipus became King of Thebes, Delphi some again, suggesting that the only way to end a serve blight plaguing Thebes was avenged the murder of the former king, Laius” (Lines 1999). This was set in stone in the prophecy and Oedipus went in with his life not knowing what he really did. Oedipus later on even goes out of his way to find king Laius's killer when little did he know it was him all along. Unfortunately for Oedipus, the prophecy is not the only thing from his past to catch up to him.

Whether people believe it or not, parents are the biggest influence on a child’s life but unfortunately for Oedipus, his parents’ belief about the prophecy was stronger than their love for him. Both the King and Queen did anything in their power to make sure the prophecy on their end would not happen. Readers believe that what the King and Queen did to their son Oedipus was inhuman. Oedipus's parents did not want to kill their son themselves so instead, they got a servant to kill him on a mountain but the servant himself felt bad and gave the baby to the King and Queen of Corinth and that is where the mess begins. The King and Queen have no idea that their plan did not work to their advantage but instead made the prophecy come true years later. Due to the King and Queen doing anything in their power to stop the prophecy, only made the prophecy come true. Once Oedipus found out about the prophecy, he decided to leave Corinth away from who he thought were his parents all his life in order for this prophecy not to come true. Some readers believe the King and Queen of Thebes, better known as Oedipus's biological parents are the real reason the prophecy did end up coming true. They both tried so hard to stop it that it ended up happening. Readers believe that if Oedipus would have known who his real parents were all along there would have been a lower chance but the prophecy actually coming true. In the end, this whole mess is ultimately the King and Queen’s fault and they all pay for it at the end. The King and Queen of Corinth took pity on Oedipus and adopted him, they named him after his ankle wounds, his name means “swollen foot”. When the truth finally came out the Queen flees the science in distress and kills herself, she hangs herself in her chamber. After finding his dead wife as well as the mother he tears out two golden pins from her gown and pricks his eyes (Sophocles). Oedipus’ parents might have played a huge factor in the prophecy coming true trying their best to stop it but then there Teiresias and Creon who knew the truth and refused to Just say it from the beginning. Everyone played a key role in this tragic story and everyone paid their dues at the end of the day. It is ironic how it all turns out, Oedipus and his parents all tried so hard to stop the prophecy from coming true, and everything they did only made it happen. There was no way for Oedipus to escape his fate nor running away from his past, things only caught up to him. What is meant to be will be, no matter what the situation is. Sometimes running away from the past can only make things worse in the long run. That is something Oedipus, unfortunately, had no idea he was doing, not knowing the truth about his biological parents is what started this whole mess in the first place. When looking at this story a little more closely, some readers believe the prophecy was always really meant to happen the way it did and no one knew it so Oedipus, as well as his biological parents, tried to stop it this way instead but it only came back to them in the long run.

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Oedipus’ tragic flaw only added more heat to the fire. Some readers believe that his tragic flaw is only a result of all the things he has gone through in his life. In the literary journal Abraham and Oedipus: Paradigms of Comedic and Tragic Belief, it is even stated that “Oedipus emerges as a tragedy of belief…. And it is in the pathos of his belief that Oedipus wins sympathy and breaks hearts” (Savoie 2013). Oedipus Rex was written as a tragedy. Some readers see Oedipus be naïve and that is another reason why the prophecy ended up coming true. Not once did Oedipus stop and think to connect the dots and see what was right in front of him this whole time. His whole life was a lie but his biggest flaw was his temper, anger, and blindness to the truth. Those three things led him to not only his prophecy coming true but his own death. Oedipus had really bad anger and temper which he at times could not control and would let it get the best of him. The perfect example of this was when he found out the prophecy came true and indeed he was King Laius, his father’s real killer. Oedipus vowed to everyone including the Queen he would find the King’s killer or anyone helping the killer and would have them pay for what they did but little did he know it was him all along. When it comes to Oedipus and his tragedies, Diderot’s Tableaux, Greek Tragic Form, and Gengangere, “It is a different kind of tragedy, whose shape is not the protagonist’s search for self-truth, but rather the revelation of the consequences of her rejecting that truth in favor of the world’s demands..” (Templeton 1997). This article is explaining how Oedipu's tragedies did not come from what necessarily happened but the consequences of those things and how he reacted to it all with his anger and bad temper. Tragedy places a really big role in this story but Oedipus is not the only one affected by it. Oedipus had children with his wife Queen Jocasta, who also happens to be his own mother. In the end, those kids not only have the same mother and grandmother but have also lost their parents. Queen Jocasta ends her life due to finding out the truth then Oedipus on the other hand stabbed his eyes out and exiles Thebes away from his kids. This would be a perfect example of a time where Oedipus did not know how to handle his anger and bad temper. It is a known fact that Teiresias and Creon knew all along with the truth and that the prophecy had come true. Oedipus, Teiresias, and Creon did not have the best relationship, there were multiple times when Oedipus took out his anger for any reason on either one of them. In fact Oedipus calls Creon a trader and believed both Creon and Teiresias were plotting against him. Even though they did not have the best relationship when Oedipus’ second prophecy was coming true and had stabbed his eyes out, he made Creon promise him to look after his kids who had done nothing wrong in this whole mess and Creon agreed. The complex nature of Oedipus' hamartia, is also important. The Greek term hamartia, typically translated as 'tragic flaw' (Dictionary). It is closer in meaning to a mistake or an error, failing, rather than just a flaw. Oedipus fits this, for his basic flaw is his lack of knowledge about his own identity. Oedipus's great downfall is due to his tragic flaw, it gives a sense of pity towards him, first, he blinds himself instead of killing himself and will suffer eternal suffering.

Even though Oedipus had his major downfalls, he did do all his duties as king of Thebes. He did everything he could for the people of Thebes, the Queen and even tries to get justice for the King’s murder. Oedipus’ story is very ironic and tragic, readers have sympathy and pity for him even with his flaws. Through it all Oedipus is a perfect example of a tragic hero, he went against all odds and the Gods to try and avoid the prophecy from coming true even though, it backfired on him and his past caught up to him. After the first prophecy came true then came another one which was a result of the first one. The second prophecy was given by Teiresias, who knew all along the first prophecy had indeed come true. In other words, the second prophecy talks about how once the truth comes out about the first prophecy, Oedipus will be exiled from Thebes to never return, he will leave his kids and suffer eternal pain forever. Oedipus does go through a change at the end of the story once he finds out the truth and sees it was all in front of him all along. Oedipus was naïve and blind to the truth all along, he really tried the best he could with what was given to him. Oedipus tried his best to escape not only his past but his destiny as well. Greek Gods are strong believers in destiny and believe a person’s destiny is set and stone at birth and there is nothing that person can do to change it. Meaning no matter what Oedipus would have done differently or in this case, any other character would have done differently, the prophecy would some way still have come true. Even though the prophecy was bound to happen there were certain events that only made matters worse and made this story even more tragic for everyone involved. That being Oedipus’ flaws, his temper and his anger only made matters worse and harder on everyone around him. His temper and anger were his reactions to everything that was happening around him, as well as all the vibes and thoughts he had but never would he had imagined this was the truth behind it all. Oedipus strongly believed characters like Teiresias and Creon just simply did not want him as King of Thebes and that they were plotting against him when in reality they both just knew the truth but did not speak up about it once they both connected all the dots. Unfortunately for Oedipus, he had no one would be really one hundred percent on his side, making him realize what was right in front of him and guide him in the right direction. Instead, he had himself and let his bad temper and anger get the best of him.

Oedipus Rex is contended with his past because of his prophecy, his parents, and unfortunately, his tragic flaw, although when Oedipus did do his duties as King and focuses on his parents. It is no secret that no matter how hard a person tried to escape their past, it will always catch up to them. Oedipus is a perfect example of this, even though he himself did not even know he was running away from his past it still caught up to him. Even though readers pity Oedipus he is still at fault for the ways things turned out to be. There were things that could get been handled very differently. Things like his temper, his anger towards certain characters, and most importantly his way of not seeing what was right in front of him all long. It is human nature to react to a situation a person is put in but Oedipus let it all get in the way of seeing what was really important in his life. Oedipus is not the only character at fault, every character in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, played a major role in this tragedy. First and most important were Oedipus’ biological parents for wanted their own son killed in order for the prophecy not to come true. Secondly comes Oedipus’ adopted parents, both the King and Queen of Cornith could have come forward and told Oedipus they are not his biological parents once Oedipus heard about the prophecy and tried to escape it. Some readers may overlook the King and Queen of Cornith but they do play a key role in the tragedy of Oedipus’ life after all. Then comes Teiresias and Creon, they both knew before Oedipus finally put all the pieces together and did not fully confront him but let him on. Oedipus was very naïve and did not want to see all the signs that were in front of him. Some readers believe Oedipus just did not want to see the truth that was right in front of him but rather live in the unknown and believes he had beat his prophecy. Finally comes Queen Jocasta who knew about the prophecy for so long, and did not find it weird her husband King Laius was murdered then marries a man that could be his son’s age. Queen Jocasta killed herself soon after finding out the truth about her second husband who in reality was her son she thought was dead due to orders from her and her late husband King Laius. Queen Jocasta believed that ending her life was the best way out of the tragedy her life had become. The prophecy came true, King Laius was killed by their son Oedipus and then marries not only her husband's killer but her son who was sent to get killed in order for this not to happen.


The past caught up to every character in this story, not only the past but karma. Everyone in this story sooner or later paid for all the bad and evil they ever did. Unfortunately, there are some characters in this story who were not at fault and those were Oedipus and Queen Jocasta's children. Those children are not at fault for their parent’s mistake or most importantly their mother’s mistake, who is also their grandmother. In the end, they are the ones who suffer the greater loss, not only do they come to find out the truth of their own family tree but they also lost both of their parents due to this prophecy. Unfortunately, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles did not end with a happy ending instead it was a tragedy from beginning to end and every character played a key role in that.

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