King Essay, Research Paper
The Role of Fate in “Oedipus the King”
Is Oedipus a victim of the gods, their prophecies, and destiny, or his own fatal flaws? I am under the impression that Sophocles wrote the play to underscore the uselessness of trying to avoid one’s fate. He implies that we need to turn to the gods because we cannot see the whole picture. Or rather, we are not willing to see the truth. He insinuates throughout the play that people should turn their trust back to religious fundamentalism. I read this on the Internet. I believe it is said so fittingly:
In the Middle Ages, tragedy was associated with the downfall of eminent people through the inevitable turning of Fortune’s wheel; their fall exemplifies the inconsistency of Fortune and the folly of placing trust in worldly goods rather than God’s will.
The gods are punishing Oedipus; it seems, because he tries to escape his fate. Oedipus is most definitely more directed towards fate than anything else. After all, the prophecies of the oracle did come true and the fate of Oedipus was outlined even before he was born. The Greeks believed in fate and running away from fate is a big no-no. The townspeople (chorus) stated:
Destiny guide me always, Destiny find me filled with reverence pure in word and deed. Great laws tower above us, reared on high born for the brilliant vault of heaven.
The great laws signify a great chain of command, if you will. Oedipus has upset that great chain of command by his blatant attempt to defy his fate.
Oedipus was more of a victim of fate rather then a participator. After the climax in which Oedipus learned of his deeds, he exclaimed that he was “dammed from birth”. This is also evident when he says:
Wasn’t I born for torment? Else I’m doomed to couple with my mother and cut my father down Wouldn’t a man of judgment say- and wouldn’t he be right- some savage power has brought this down upon my head?
Here Oedipus is blaming the gods for his misfortunes. So far, he believes that there is no free will and that the gods control life’s outcomes. Then Jocasta leads him to believe that there is no meaning to these prophecies:
What should a man fear? It’s all chance, chance rules our lives. Not a man on earth can see a day ahead, groping through he dark. Better to live at random, best we can Take such things for shadows, nothing at all- Live, Oedipus, as if there’s no tomorrow! Jocasta does not believe the prophecies at first because the fate of her husband supposedly never came true. She is trying to convince Oedipus that, “No skill in the world, nothing human can penetrate the future.” He does not believe her. Oedipus: “I count myself the son of Chance the moons have marked me out.” So it seems that Oedipus had no choice in his fate.
He was a pawn for the gods to toy with. I think that the all mighty gods knew all along exactly what was going to happen and how. Then they let the right people see at the right time to try to test Oedipus. Just as the famous line said by Puck, “What fools these mortals be.” This is also what I think Sophocles is trying to show us in this play; mortals are fools and cannot be trusted without some kind of divine direction.