Fate in Oedipus Rex
During ancient times, the Greeks believed very strongly in a concept called "fate". What is "fate"? Fate can be defined as a cause beyond human control that determines events. It can also be defined as the outcome or end of some sort. In "Oedipus Rex", King Oedipus is a character that lived by fate and died by fate. This element of fate truly impacted the storyline and the plot, while allowing for some interesting developments that may have been unforeseen by the viewing audience.
In Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex", fate truly is a huge factor in many scenes and events. According to ancient Greek belief, the word of God was fate, and fate was the word of God. Therefore, every event that ever happened was predetermined and unchangeable. Oedipus himself has been completely victimized by fate. In the beginning of the play, he was "fated" to kill his father and marry his own mother and conceive children with her. Since it was the word of Apollo, the god, to the Greeks it meant that it was unchangeable. Oedipus escaped Corinth, the supposed city of his birth, and ran far away. He happened upon an old man in the crossroads-a fated event. Though he did not know it at the time, when he killed the man, it turned out to be his own father-a prophecy he was destined by fate to fulfill (Elsom, 85).
"The heralds no sooner reported Laius dead than you appeared and they hailed you king of Thebes." (Sophocles, 187). Soon after he unwittingly killed his father, Oedipus happened upon a creature called the Sphinx, who posed a riddle for him. Though none of the other great minds in the entire world could do this, Oedipus answered her riddle and destroyed her, freeing Thebes. Thus he subsequently became king of Thebes. What a fated chain of events! (Elsom, 86).
Oedipus was not the only character that was impacted by the element of fate. Laius was affected in large part by the workings of fate. For some fateful offense he committed at the feet of the gods, he was doomed to suffer a horrendous curse, which was that his son would grow up to kill him one day and marry his (Laius's) wife. Jocasta was also very much influenced by the mysteries of fate. She delivered a baby who later delivered her many babies in an incestuous relationship, though she was not cognizant of the fact when it occurred. She also did not hesitate to throw her baby simply because the word of Apollo said that her son would kill her husband and marry her later. This is an example of the fateful word of God whom the Greeks believed was the be-all, end-all (Elsom, 87). Thus, she too was a victim of fate, as everybody else was.
Oedipus was not just fated by events beyond his control, but he was also fated by excessive hubris and pride. He was so proud, he had to kill an old man denying him passage...