Oedipus Rex, By Sophocles: Fate Over Free Will

1126 words - 5 pages

Whether “fate” or “free will” is in control of our lives has always been

a highly questionable controversy—even today. Many of those with religious views

believe there is a higher power that has a predestined plan for each one of us and

our life is not in our own hands at all. If we knew our fate, do we have the power of

free will to change our future? In the play, Oedipus, fate becomes the determining

factor of Oedipus’s life and even with “free will”, there was no way to prevent his

inevitable destruction. Oedipus is guided and shaped at every point by the actions

and beliefs of others, who act as unwitting agents of his tragic destiny.

The play opens with Theban subjects praying at Oedipus’ altar for relief

from the plague. They beg and plead with him to lend his greatness to their

aid. “..Oedipus, king, we bend to you, your power… we beg of you, best of men,

raise up our city!” (161) He is sympathizing with the worshippers, when Creon

the queen’s brother enters the scene. Oedipus has sent Creon to the Oracle to find

a remedy for his city’s troubles. Creon would like to share the message with him

private, but the brash king will not listen. He says, “Speak out, speak to us all I grieve

for these, my people, far more than I fear for my own life.” (163) Creon is forced

to comply to his king’s wish & relates the fateful message. According to the Oracle,

Thebes’ troubles are punishment for harboring a murderer, the killer of Laius,

Oedipus’ predecessor.

Upon hearing this, Oedipus launches into a fervent oratory in condemnation of this

man, and warns all who will listen about the consequences of harboring him or

trying to hide him from his search. “So daring, so wild”, he cries, “he’d kill a king?”

Oedipus is immediately begins pursuing the case of this king killer &

summons the prophet Tiresias to him to clarify the oracle. Tiresias is well aware of

the killer’s identity and is unwilling to reveal it. He says “ None of you knows- and I

will never reveal my dreadful secrets, not to say your own.” (177)

After much taunting, Tiresias finally tells Oedipus that he is in fact the killer

of his own father. he is outraged and Jocasta reassures him by convincing him that

prophecies are meaningless by telling him the prophecy of her son never came

true in belief she prevented this from becoming truth. “An oracle came to Laius

one fine day… and it declared that doom would strike him down at the hands of

a son, our son, to be born of our own flesh and blood. But Laius, so the report

goes at least was killed by strangers, thieves…” (201) Before knowing that the

truth of the prophecies has actually been revealed, Jocasta is still doubtful fate is

in control. Even though she clearly fears that the prophecies enough when she

makes the choice abandon her own son to near-certain death, she is still convinced

that because of “free will”, his ‘fate’ can be...

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