Oedipus's Submission to the Gods
In ancient Greece, plays were more then simply a form of entertainment. "Athenian drama was supported and financed by the state. (...)Greek theater was directed at the moral and political education of the community." (Kennedy and Gioia, pgs 1357-1363) Sophocles understood this, and dissipated any pollyanic view of society by presenting us with plays that were intended to teach. Sophocles's Oedipus the King issued a warning for those who foolishly believed that they could challenge the forces of nature. Sophocles was known for presenting characters that are fluid not static. So it should come as no surprise that the Oedipus the reader encounters at the outset of the play, an extraordinary leader, but one who's pride has lead him to challenge his fate, has changed by the end of the play. He comes to realize that all his efforts to change the outcome of his life were acts of futility. We are shown a man who has finally accepted divine will and though now fallen from high estate is uplifted in moral dignity. (Kennedy and Gioia Pg 1364-1365)
The play centers on Oedipus, a man of great compassion and intelligence who was also a man of great pride. Through his intelligence, he managed to solve a riddle no one else had been able to solve. This resulted in freeing Thebes from the sphinx that had been oppressing the land and securing for Oedipus both the kingship of Thebes and Jocasta, the late king Laius's widow, for his wife. "Thus Oedipus's intelligence, a trait that brings Oedipus closer to the gods, is what causes him to commit the most heinous of all possible sins. In killing the Sphinx, Oedipus is the city's savior, but in killing Laius (and marrying Jocasta), he is the scourge, the cause of the blight that has struck the city at the plays opening" (Little) Oedipus, while appearing to have everything, was a man who, even before his birth, was fated by the gods to kill his father and marry his mother.
Upon learning of this prophesy, Oedipus, prince of Corinth, official son of King Polybus and queen Merope, left the city where he was raised, convinced he could be the master of his own fate and circumvent the will of the gods. Oedipus's confidence as a ruler, and pride in his own abilities, is made clear during the first half of the play. The play starts off with a procession of priests who are carrying branches wound in wool and laying them on the alter that is located in front of the royal house of Thebes and then supplicating themselves before it. A plague has struck Thebes killing their crops and cattle and causing the women of Thebes to miscarry. When Oedipus enters, he expresses sincere concern for his people and their plight, yet immediately turns their attention away from the gods and onto himself by stating "Here I am myself--you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus." (Oedipus, pgs 1366 -1367) (It is important not to think of the gods in Greek tragedies...