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Oedipus Rex Fate: Essay

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Oedipus Rex is one of the Greek tragedies that continues to captivate modern audiences. The play explores several themes, including Oedipus’ quest for identity, the nature of innocence and guilt, blindness and sight, and power abuse; however, the most powerful and fascinating theme discussed in the play is the divisive question of whether humans have free will or are victims of fate. Sophocles, the author, correctly distinguishes between fate and free will in human life decisions. His ideas about the supernatural are in line with Greek beliefs. Prophecy appears to predetermine fate in the tragedy, stripping mankind of their power to act and think freely. Despite Oedipus’ best attempts, the prophet concedes that it is impossible to prevent fate, and Oedipus becomes a victim of his fate. Even though Oedipus tries to change his fate in Oedipus Rex, it is evident that he is unable to act on his own free choice, and his acts lead to his sad and unavoidable conclusion.

Readers have different interpretations of Oedipus’ hamartia. Some analysts believe that Oedipus’ extreme arrogance and self-confidence are the root of his tragedy. He has unfounded doubts about Tiresias and Creon, to the point that he expresses considerable skepticism regarding oracles’ prophetic natures and the accuracy of their forecasts. Even if a combination of all of these were comparable to what Aristotle believed to be a major hamartia, it would be irrelevant to the subject at hand, because Oedipus committed incest and parricide years before the action of the play started, and before he demonstrated any of the failings listed above.

Aristotle believed that the protagonist in a tragedy must have a fatal fault that eventually leads to his demise. The fatal defect that precipitated Oedipus’ demise in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King was his pride. When Oedipus’ pride got the best of him, he abandoned his adopted parents in Cornith, went against Creon, and demanded that the messenger tell him all he knows about his original parents. When Oedipus abandons his adoptive parents in Corinth, he demonstrates his pride. After hearing his fate from an elderly prophet, Oedipus departs. Oedipus is told by the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother one day. Oedipus, fearful of this, chooses to flee Cornith. He is defying the gods by doing so, declaring that he will not allow this to happen to him and will take charge of his own fate. The second time Oedipus is revealed to have a lot of pride is when he goes up against Creon. Creon is labeled a traitor by Oedipus. He claims Creon convinced him to send for Tiresias, the prophet, to find out who killed King Laius. He believes Creon and Tiresias conspired against him, accusing him of murdering the king. Creon, according to Oedipus, did this so that he might become king. The final time Oedipus’ pride got the best of him was when he demanded that the messenger tell him all he knows about his true parents. The messenger tries to persuade him that things would be best left unsaid once more, but Oedipus is determined to find out. When the messenger finally informs him that Polybus is not his father, Jocasta has already deduced that she is his mother. Oedipus inquires of the messenger about his true parents. ‘Never find out who you are,’ Jocasta warns Oedipus, asking him not to listen to the message (1073). Of course, Oedipus persists and summons the shepherd who knows where he came from.

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Some observers believe that Oedipus’ greatest fatal defect is his intellectual myopia. He has poor vision and is unable to appraise circumstances in a balanced manner. ‘He[Oedipus] was the victim of an optical illusion,’ Robert L. Kane (1975) days of this preposition. (Section 196) The contrast between Oedipus ‘outward splendor and internal blindness’ and the prophet’s ‘outward blindness and inward sight’ represents two sorts of blindness: physical and mental. One is concerned with physical vision, while the other, the most dangerous sort of blindness, is concerned with understanding. Tiresias is physically blind, while Oedipus is cognitively blind. Oedipus’ intellectual blindness also plays a significant role in leading him to his sad fate. Except for the last scene, Oedipus has perfect physical eyesight throughout the play, but he is blind to his own reality. He has the power to see at one point in the play, but he refuses to use it. He possesses intellectual eyesight in addition to physical blindness, but he is unable to overcome the psychological ‘slings and arrows’ and emotional anguish that intellectual blindness has brought him. So his blindness is the worst, both intellectually at the start of the game and bodily at the conclusion.

‘The intent or principle or deciding cause by which things, in general, are considered to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do,’ according to the dictionary (Merriam Webster). Throughout Oedipus Rex, Oedipus makes every attempt to evade the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother one day. Oedipus ends up fulfilling the prophecy through a series of circumstances because of his efforts and his own actions, but he refuses to believe it. The question is whether Oedipus is trapped by fate designed by the gods or whether he has free will to decide his own future. In this context, the author supports the claim that Oedipus’ decisions were not influenced by his free will, implying that whatever acts Oedipus did, the conclusion was already set. According to Sheehan, the curse on Oedipus was inescapable since it existed before Oedipus was born, and Apollo would see to it that it was fulfilled. This comment confirms Oedipus’ helplessness in the circumstance and his lack of control over the course of his life. Sheehan, on the other hand, claims that there were times in the play when Oedipus might have chosen a different path and avoided his fate. Despite this, the protagonist makes decisions that bring him closer to his doom. When Oedipus is at a fork in the path, Sheenan presents an illustration. He might escape the road rage incident if he went in the opposite way (Sheehan 39). Free will was an illusion in this situation, and Oedipus’ fate was to suffer his sad end. Although individuals, especially Oedipus, take pleasure in their free choice, Oedipus Rex demonstrates the Greek belief in fate, concluding that people have no influence over their fate.

In conclusion, through no fault of his own, Oedipus was cursed with a horrible curse. In this way, his fate is predetermined. His deeds, on the other hand, are not. Oedipus cannot avoid the prophecy’s exact points, but the prophecy just specifies the boundaries of his freedom. He is free to act as he sees fit within its parameters. In this way, Oedipus is like his daughter Antigone, who must choose whether to honor her father’s wishes and bury her brother, Polynices, even though the law would almost definitely sentence her to death. Even though Oedipus the King and Antigone were written over two millennia ago, they continue to serve as examples of how people may and must utilize their freedom of choice.

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Oedipus Rex Fate: Essay. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Oedipus Rex Fate: Essay.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
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