The ancient Greeks believed that their gods could see the future, and that certain people could access this information. Prophets or seers, like blind Tiresias, saw visions of things to come. Oracles, priests who resided at the temples of gods—such as the oracle to Apollo at Delphi—were also believed to be able to interpret the gods' visions and give prophecies to people who sought to know the future. During the fifth century B.C.E., however, when Sophocles was writing his plays, intellectuals within Athenian society had begun to question the legitimacy of the oracles and of the traditional gods. Some of this tension is plain to see in Oedipus Rex, which hinges on two prophecies. The first is the prophecy received by King Laius of Thebes that he would have a son by Queen Jocasta who would grow up to kill his own father. The second is the prophecy that Oedipus received that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Laius, Jocasta, and Oedipus all work to prevent the prophecies from coming to pass, but their efforts to thwart the prophecies are what actually bring the prophecies to completion.
This raises a question at the heart of the play: does Oedipus have any choice in the matter? He ends up killing his father and marrying his mother without knowing it—in fact, when he is trying to avoid doing these very things. Does he have free will—the ability to choose his own path—or is everything in life predetermined? Jocasta argues that the oracles are a sham because she thinks the prediction that her son would kill her husband never came to pass. When she finds out otherwise, she kills herself. In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus has fulfilled his terrible prophecy long ago, but without knowing it. He has already fallen into his fate. One could argue that he does have free will, however, in his decision to pursue the facts about his past, despite many suggestions that he let it go. In this argument, Oedipus's destruction comes not from his deeds themselves but from his persistent efforts to learn the truth, through which he reveals the true nature of those terrible deeds. Oedipus himself makes a different argument at the end of the play, when he says that his terrible deeds were fated, but that it was he alone who chose to blind himself. Here, Oedipus is arguing that while it is impossible to avoid one's fate, how you respond to your fate is a matter of free will.
Fate vs. Free-Will in Oedipus the King Essay
1531 Words7 Pages
Fate vs. Free-Will in Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex)
In Oedipus the King, was it the concept of fate or free will of man that decided the outcome of the play? Both points of view have a strong support. In Ancient Greece, fate was considered to be a part of life. Every aspect of life depended and was based upon fate (Nagle 100). Sophocles took a direct standpoint on the entire concept of free will. Mankind has free will and can alone decide how their life turns out. Regarding prophecies and oracles, mankind has the ability alone to control their lives. Fate and free will both decide the turnout of Oedipus the King.
Both sides of the argument can be greatly supported. The Greeks believed in the idea that personality of…show more content…
This driving force in the play led to the truth of his origin. This ties in with his own aspect of free will. His free will is based on his drive for knowledge.
Throughout the entire play, Oedipus pushes Tiresias, Creon, Jocasta, the oracle, the messenger, and the shepherd for information regarding his beginnings. Each one of these characters in some way or form refused to give him a thorough answer. As he draws closer to the answer, another character tries to stop his journey. Oedipus continues moving onward even though others request he didn't. "Oh no, listen to me, I beg you, don’t do this….Listen to you? No more. I must know it all, see the truth at last " (Sophocles 195). His desire for truth kept pushing him to continue his search, ultimately leading to his downfall. The entire time Oedipus had the capability to discontinue the plight. However he made the independent decision to continue.
Another instance where choices directly linked Oedipus to the prophecy was at the crossroads. Oedipus demonstrates an important trait in his character, stubbornness. This trait is visible when Oedipus reacted to the man pushing him aside at the crossroads. "the one shouldering me aside, the driver, I strike him in anger! ….I killed them all--every mother's son!" (Sophocles 189). In ancient times when a caravan was coming down the road they usually pushed you to the side. Oedipus didn’t like this and flipped