Oedipus Rex: Fate V. Free Will Essay, Research Paper
Oedipus’ unyielding desire to uncover the truth about Laius’ murder and the mystery surrounding his own birth, led him to the tragic realization of his horrific deeds. Teiresias, Jocasta, and the herdsman tried to stop him from pursuing the truth. Take for example a part of the last conversation between Jocasta and Oedipus. After realizing that the prophecy had came true, Jocasta begs him to let the mystery go unsolved for once. “No! By the gods, no; leave it if you care for your own life. I suffer. ‘Tis enough”. Oedipus replies, “I cannot yield my right to know the truth”. He is unable to stop his quest for the truth, even under his wife’s pleading. For it is in his own vain that he must solve the final riddle of his own life.
At the end of this tragic story, when Oedipus gouges out his eyes, The events in Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, show an underlying relationship of man’s free will existing within the cosmic order or fate that the Greeks believed guided the universe. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held responsible for his own actions. Both the concepts of fate and free will played an integral part in Oedipus’ destruction. Although he was a victim of fate, he was not controlled by it. Oedipus was destined from birth to someday marry his mother and to murder his father. This prophecy as warned by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi was unconditional and inevitably would come to pass, no matter what he may have done to avoid it. His past actions were determined by fate, but his adventures in Thebes were controlled by his own free will.
From the beginning of this tragedy, Oedipus took many actions leading to his own downfall. He could have endured the plague, but out of compassion for his suffering people, he had Creon go to Delphi. When he learned of Apollo’s word, he could have calmly investigated the murder of the former King Laius, but in his hastiness, he condemns the murderer, and in so, unknowingly curses himself. “Tis a just zeal for the cause of that slain man. And right it is in me that ye shall see me fighting that cause for Phoebus and for Thebes”.
In order for Sophocles’ play to be categorized as tragic, the tragic hero had to have some sort of a flaw. The hero’s tragic flaws are the qualities, which ultimately lead to his downfall. Oedipus’ pride, ignorance, insolence towards the gods, and unrelenting quest for the truth ultimately contributed to his destruction. When Terrisias told Oedipus that he was responsible for the murder of Laius, he became enraged and calls the old oracle a liar. He ran away from his home in Corinth, in hopes of outsmarting the gods divine will. Like his father, Oedipus also sought ways to escape the horrible destiny told by the oracle of Apollo. The chorus warns us of man’s need to have reverence for the gods, and the dangers of too much pride. “But if a man tread the ways of arrogance; fear not justice, honour not the gods enshrined; evil take him! Ruin be the prize of his fatal pride!”
the chorus asks him what god urged him to blind himself. Oedipus replied, “’Twas Apollo, friends, willed the evil, willed, and brought the agony to pass! And yet the hand that struck was mine, mine only”. He claimed full responsibility for his actions. Oedipus was guilty of killing his father and marrying his mother, but perhaps the true sin lay in his overzealous attempt to raise himself to the level of the gods by trying to escape his fate. Ultimately Oedipus was judged for his pride in his conquests surrounding Thebes. This judgement brought him a loss of everything and an exile from Thebes.
Although Oedipus was unaware of the facts concerning the true nature of Laius and Jocasta, the extent of his crimes were still malicious. When he tears out his eyes Oedipus is accepting the full burden of his acts and knew that he must be punished for his sins. Therefore the last act of destruction was caused by Oedipus’ free will, but his tragic fate came about because of the role of the gods in human affairs.
The chorus concludes this tragedy by warning the Greeks that the only way to happiness is through humility and respect towards the gods. They also warn not to take anything for granted, or else suffer a fate like that of Oedipus.
“Look, ye who dwell in Thebes. This man was Oedipus. That mighty king, who knew the riddle’s mystery, whom all the city envied, fortune’s favorite. Behold, in the event, the storm of his calamities, and, being mortal, think on that last day of death, which all must see, and speak of no man’s happiness till, without sorrow, he hath passed the goal of life.”