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Oedipus The King: A Victim Of Fate

1391 words - 6 pages

Oedipus the King would not have been successful throughout centuries as a tragic play, if Oedipus were clearly responsible for his own tragedy. The play's ongoing success was do to Oedipus' innocence which immediately makes one think he can not be fully responsible and to blame. I do not believe Sophocles would have wrote the story, or I do not think people would have ever read it or studied it had it simply been a story of a criminal's retribution. Sophocles himself believed Oedipus to be the innocent victim of an ironic tragedy, and built the play around this belief. This story was destined to happen and I believe the author would agree. The story revolves around destiny, the resistance of people to it and the ultimate ending of destiny lasting over all their attempts to avoid it. Written in a time of religious unrest, there is a lesson to be learned from this tragic play; that no matter what we do as humans, it is the god's will which dominates over us.

Oedipus seems to be an example of the Athenian's ego at the time. Oedipus is portrayed as a king concerned with his people's welfare, who searches for truth, is intelligent and takes action quickly - all qualities which Athenians prided themselves on at the time the play was written. "An Athenian is always an innovator, quick to form a resolution and quick at carrying it out....Then again, Athenian daring will outrun it's own resources; they will take risks against their better judgement, and still, in the midst of danger, remain confident" (From History of the Peloponnesian War, p. 30). This is evident through many other characters in other stories. A typical Athenian stereotype is that of which resembles Agamemnon and his family. These stereotypes were that of people who took matters into their own hands. They acted quickly and did not rely on the gods to settle the issues at hand. For example when Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter to the gods his wife was angered with him for taking his own child's life and rather than waiting to see what was to be destined to her husband she killed him. She took the matters into her own hands and found justice her own way. These traits are also seen in Oedipus, for he values the power of truth. Instead of relying on the gods, Oedipus counts on his own ability to root out the truth; after all, he is a riddle-solver.

People make the assumption that Oedipus murdered his own father, however this is flawed. The play clearly states that this act was provoked; therefore, all he is guilty of is self-defense. Oedipus describes a wagon about to shove him off the road with "brute force", this angered him to strike the driver, and when the old male passenger (a stranger to Oedipus) tried to prong him in the head, he attacked him - this is far from being guilty of murder. This makes you think that Sophocles is writing it from the angle that Oedipus was innocent.

In order to discuss the issues at hand, we need to assess the degree of free will that an...

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