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Fate Against Free Will In Oedipus The King By Sophocles

1589 words - 6 pages

The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that the events in Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, are the result of the hero’s self determination and restless attempt to escape a terrifying destiny predicted for him by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi.
My intention is to prove that although the Fates play a crucial part in the story, it is Oedipus'choices and wrong doing that ultimately lead to his downfall.
At first glance, it seems that the abhorrent destiny of the main character is at the mercy of mischievous and cruel gods.
However, upon examining all the tangible clues in the text, it becomes evident that Oedipus is himself a willing participant in his own doings.
Therefore the King was not a victim of fate, as many scholars seem to believe, and that he was never completely controlled by it.
In order to better understand this relationship between free will and cosmic order we need to take a close look at the myth.
According to Nagle, in the ancient world, fate and destiny held a crucial role in the lives of human beings. Every aspect of living was touched and influenced by the Gods who manifested themselves in a number of ways (Nagle 100).
The greek word for fate “anake” (necessity), epitomises the fatalistic belief that the universe and everything in it is governed by unforeseeable forces.
These forces personify in the form of three goddesses, the Moirai.
“Clotho” who spins the thread of life, “Lachesis” who determines the length of a life, and “Atropos” who cuts the thread of life. 
In conclusion, although the fates appear to be pre-written, men are allowed to exercise a certain influence upon them.

In The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche puts the Moirai above all knowledge and in control of the destiny of all mankind. The three goddesses were not only respected and revered by the Greek, but they were especially dreaded.

To prove that Oedipus’ attempt to escape fate and his insolence towards the gods are responsible for his tragic epilogue, I will now examine some excerpt from the play.
First and foremost he runs from Corinth of his own accord, before the play has even started: "When I heard this, and in the days that followed I would measure from the stars the whereabouts of Corinth-yes, I fled to somewhere where I should not see fulfilled the infamies told in that dreadful oracle".
Later on, having deciphered the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus is put in front of the choice to become king and to wed the queen, or to move on. He is not forced into marrying his mother yet Oedipus' decision to stay in Thebes puts him one step closer to fulfilling his destiny.
He could have waited for the plague to end, but out of compassion for the people of Thebes, he sent Creon to Delphi.
Every single step that Oedipus takes, he does so of his own will.
The King is desperately trying to find answers, but he is not aware of the personal consequences he will have to face: essentially his search for the truth is driven by his ignorance of it....

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