Oedipus Rex: Human Condition Reversed As Soon As One Measures It Against The Gods

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Since the universe has been created, there are certain patterns of life that the whole world is following. People born, they grow upon, face certain challenges of the life and devout their live towards the will of the God. So basically, all the events of life are written and organized by the God. However the conflict and problems of the life arises when we try to challenge the will of the God, when we try to write our own fate and when we consider ourselves superior to everything.

Tragedies in the Greek dramas have been designed in a manner that each action leads towards the tragic downfall, as it is the basic element of the Greek plays. Moreover, the hero is confined to commit an error that would lead to his downfall, otherwise it doesn’t validate to Greek’s tragedy. As Roche in The Orestes Plays of Aeschylus wrote that: “The theme of all tragedy is the sadness of life and the universality of evil.”

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Therefore, the reversal of the action is an important component, to show the tragic downfall of the heroes. Oedipus, similarly, was a king who himself tried to develop his fate, which led to the tragic reversal and destruction of his fate. His condition in the end was presented in a way that from power and pride, his character was changed to being a pitiful and helpless person. As the lines of the play Oedipus Rex suggests: “Then once more I must bring what is dark to light.” (Prologue, Line: 159)

This statement is the evidence about the prophecies that Oedipus made as he had a confidence that he can achieve and gain anything in his life.

If the play is looked thoroughly, there are certain proofs which give a clear idea that the gods have been present in the play since the beginning. From one point of view, it can also be assumed that the role they have been playing was evil. Although they were not visible to the readers, the references made to it was an indication that Oedipus, no matter how much is powerful and confident about his success from the past events of his life, there is the destiny that is pre written by gods and can never be eradicated. The initial lines of the prologue, which contains the words that were uttered by the priest is one of the proofs that indicates what destruction the gods have prepared for Oedipus, since the beginning of the play. Thus the lines mentioned below creates a mindset for the readers that what chaos is the land of Oedipus is currently going through and how much dark is his destiny to be in the future.

“Your own eyes

Must tell you: Thebes in her extremity

And cannot live her head from the surge of death.” (Prologue, Lines: 23-24)

In addition to this, there are several other clues, which led towards the idea of Oedipus’s reversal of fate, which he kept on denying as he thought that he is as pure as God and can never make any blunder in his entire life. Oedipus and his wife had unwillingness to accept the truth. When they were close to the truth, they started denying the prophecies of the god and his messengers. Although many witnesses were being provided to them who told the story of the murder, but they both acted extraordinary as if everyone except them were lying about the prophecy that Oedipus killed his own father. In this regard, they denied Teiresias (the messenger of God) too, as it can be seen in the following words of Oedipus:

(1). “He has brought this decrepit fortune teller, this

Collector of dirty pennies, this profit fraud-

Why, he is no more clairvoyant than I am” (Scene I, Lines: 465-467)

(2). “Am I to bear this from him? Damnation

Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight! (Scene I, Lines: 518-520)

Moreover, Oedipus in some places of the play can be seen as being authoritative as god. For example, while announcing punishment for the one who would be behind all the destruction happening in the city, he specified some harsh and profound acts that would be charged against that person, as if he himself is in the hold of life and death of everybody.

“Where power and throne are mine, ever to receive that man

Or speak to him, no matter who he is, or let him

Join in sacrifice, lustration, or in prayer.

I decree that he be driven from every house” (Scene I, Lines: 277-280)

Chorus in the Greek dramas performed an important role. They commented on the all the actions of the story and also built a connection between the readers and the writer, as much as it seem that the chorus was also part of the story. Through them, the audience or the reader was able to get a more meaningful insight into the play. Similarly in this play, the chorus has delivered some intricate details. The chorus in the introductory lines of the Parodos I of the play can be seen uttering:

“Now I remember, O Healer, your power, and wonder;

Will you send doom like a sudden cloud, or weave it,

Like nightfall of the past?

Speak, speak to us, issue of holy sound:

Dearest to our expectancy: be tender!” (Parados I, Lines:185-190)

These lines are the indication towards the important role that the gods have been playing. Through these lines, they are trying to catch our attention towards the fact that no matter how much big is the difficulty, one should always seek help from God and call to Him in prayer, as there is no greater or high power than Him. Likewise, in Parados I, some other gods have been referred by the chorus including “Phoebus Apollo”, “Artemis (goddess of moon)” and “Bacchus of Thebes”.

However, before the start of Scene III lies the crux of the play, which contains the whole message that what a person has to suffer as a punishment for the denial of the gods. Despite all the power a person has in this world, no matter how much is he admired and accepted by the people or how many riddles is he capable to solve, there always come a point when human actions lead them towards their destruction and in that situation, the wrath and highness of the God can never be denied.

(1). “The tyrant is the child of Pride

Who drinks from his great sickening cup

Recklessness and vanity

Until from his high crest headlong

He plummets to the dust of hope.

That strong man is not strong.”

(Ode II, Lines: 1041- 1045)

(2). “Haughtiness and the high hand of disdain

Tempt and outrage God’s holy law;

And any mortal who dares hold

No immortal power in awe

Will be caught up in a net of pain:

The price for which his levity is sold.”

(Ode II, Lines: 1052-1057)

These lines give a lesson that anyone who has pride, who tries to plot their destiny against the will of the God and does not obey His order and laws will suffer. Due to these reasons, Oedipus had to suffer from the tragedy of life. Living a perfect life as a king and enjoying his position, Oedipus never realized that how the gods have planned his fate to murder his father and then losing all he has and that is why it is said that he was measuring his fate against the gods.

Therefore, although Oedipus has been portrayed as a very responsible and intelligent king were some places where he made those blunders that led to his downfall. If we consider his life from one aspect, he was a good king and does not deserve all the tragedy he had to deal with. However, from another aspect, he planned this all unconsciously, by his own self. His stubborn and arrogant nature pushed him towards making the wrong decisions. He thought that he is as immortal as God and can never be destroyed, “I would still be the ruler” (Scene II, Line: 64). His true and the utmost crime was that he stood against the gods. It is a general characteristic of the Greek heroes that as an attempt to avoid their fate, they try to prevent the will of the gods and so was done by Oedipus. Throughout the play, it can be seen how he avoided his destiny starting from running to Thebes after he heard about the oracle that he would kill his father to denying all the evidences presented before him about the incident. But as the will of gods can never be denied he had to suffer.

To conclude, as a debate to whether fate was responsible for Oedipus’s destruction or his own self, it can be said that he was himself more responsible for all his actions. If he had not avoided and tried to run away from God’s will, the God might have given him a reward for his humble behavior. However, as he was ignorant of the ways of the God and natural law, he tried to measure the events of his life against God which led to the reversal of his fate and ultimately to his destruction. Therefore, it is truly said that human condition is reversed as soon as one measures it against the gods.

“Know your limitations, especially in relation to the gods. And stay within them.”

Works Cited

  1. Roche , Paul, “The Orestes Plays of Aeschylus.”
  2. Sophocles, “Oedipus the King”
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Oedipus Rex: Human Condition Reversed As Soon As One Measures It Against The Gods. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/oedipus-rex-human-condition-reversed-as-soon-as-one-measures-it-against-the-gods/
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