Fate In Oedipus Rex Essay, Research Paper
English IV AP
Through Sophocles? use of foreshadowing in the play Oedipus Rex, certain truths
are revealed to the reader, such as the fact that a lack of respect for fate can eventually
bring on a person?s downfall, by driving them to delusion. Oedipus is looked up to by all
his kingdom at the opening of the play, only to be thwarted by his own lack of
intelligence– and more by his lack of faith than even that. Oedipus, once the sanguine, yet
slightly overbearing ruler of the people, is reduced to less than a sliver of a human being.
When confronted by the prophet Teiresius, Oedipus feels most perplexed and even
exposed. And so he rejects any possibility of validity in Teiresius? prognostication, and, in
doing this, signs his own sentence. Because of Oedipus? failure to respect the insight of a
gifted seer, he is doomed to a blind and bloody end.
As I have said before, Oedipus was first revered by all his people. His earnest
patriotism for his adoptive land and people are well received by all in his kingdom. After
all, he is the most ?glorious Oedipus? (p.13,ln.8). Oedipus perceives himself to be a
flawless champion for those surrounding him. These blind expectations that the most
exalted Oedipus has for himself are the very things that lead him to put little credence in
others and nearly all his faith in himself. And once he decides he is stronger than prophecy,
his mad, unseeing eyes are unable to pick up the warning signs lining his road to oblivion.
At one point in the play, the blind, hermaphroditic Teiresius enters to bring
Oedipus? head out of the clouds and back to earth where things are a mite different. This
is one point of the play in which Oedipus is unbelievably close to finally buying into the
fact that some power higher than himself could be at work– and yet his arrogance and
pride hinder him from accepting the legitimacy of fate. Oedipus finds the idea that
Teiresius could know more than he simply offensive. Teiresius, sensing Oedipus? hostility
toward him, warns the king that when Oedipus berates him that ?such taunts will… cast
the selfsame taunts on you,?(p.126,ln.73). One would assume that Oedipus, knowing
Teiresius? reputation as a most unfailing and precise prophet would take heed in his
further dealings with fate. However, in a style most befitting his character, he ignores
these insights. Only when Teiresius mentions Oedipus? parents does Oedipus listen. His
interest sparked, the king cautiously asks, ? What mortals gave me birth??(p.28,ln.437).
Teiresius elaborates further by stating that the king shall ? At once be revealed as brother
and father to his own children, husband and son to his mother, his father?s kin and
murderer.?(p.28,lns.459-60). His fate has been stated bluntly to him, and Oedipus still
does not comprehend the obvious.
Oedipus is finally brought into the seeing world when his incestuous mother turned
wife Jacosta imparts to him this hurried warning, ? Don?t, by the gods, investigate this
more if you care for your own life.?(p.142,ln.1059). Finally, Oedipus starts to give in to
his destiny and, ignoring his precious Jacosta?s admonitions, he pushes the issue. Jacosta
proceeds to commit suicide in her chamber. Oedipus is shattered. He is ultimately forced
to face his own kismet, when if he had just appreciated it in the first place, he may have
not have had to deal with the tragedies that occur.
Oedipus is driven to lunacy by the drilling thoughts of what may have been if he
had only listened to any of the admonitions provided him. These thoughts are so
provoking that the former king is pushed to lacerate his own eyes. He goes to such lengths
as to banish himself. Through Sophocles? use of foreshadowing in the play Oedipus Rex,
certain truths are revealed to the reader, such as the fact that a lack of respect for fate can
eventually bring on a person?s downfall, by driving them to delusion.
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