Oedipus Rex: Tragedy of FateOedipus the King is widely regarded as a tragedy of fate. Brieflystated, it begins with a terrible plague that destroys the city. King Oedipussends a messenger to the oracle at Delphi to find a cure. The answer that isreceived suggests to find out who the killer of King Laios was. Oedipus sendsfor the prophet Teiresias, who after much arguing, finally reveals that Oedipushimself is the murderer. Slowly but surely the history of Oedipus’ situationbegins to unravel, and it is discovered that there was a prophecy made that hewould unwittingly kill his father and marry his mother; Oedipus fulfilled hisprophecy.
The conflict here lies with the struggle between the all powerful godsand the mere will of the humans. The prophecy had been made about Oedipus assoon as he was born. Once the destiny was foretold by the gods, no amount ofhope, faith, or vain effort by human beings could have prevented it.
As soon as there was interference with fate, it was counteracted by thedivinities. Jocasta wanted to kill the baby, so she skewed his legs together,had a servant bring him to the forest and leave him for dead. The servant doesnot want to carry out this deed and therefore “saves his life” by handing thebaby to someone else, so that he can be raised in another city. Further, adrunken man in a tavern tells Oedipus about the prophecy, so he runs home toquestion his parents about his fate. Instead of telling him the truth, theygive him the impression that they are in fact his biological parents.
The idea that must be pointed out here, is that once an oracle or aprophet makes a prediction, it is destined to be and there is absolutely nothingthat can be done about it. Oedipus was highly regarded as a noble and honorableking. However, if we explore beneath the exterior, we will discover that inactuality, the King has many faults and is not so honorable and noble.
Oedipus seems to be driven by an unconscious rage. Being very shorttempered, he is quick to lash out at those whose opinions are different from his.
The first episode appears within the first few minutes of the play. WhenTeiresias refuses to tell him who murdered King Laios, Oedipus becomes unjustlyenraged, which in a way suggests that he himself could have committed the murder.
He then proceeds to insult Teiresias violently. Teiresias is finally provokedinto telling Oedipus the truth; that he is responsible for the death of KingLaios. Oedipus then accuses him of lying and conspiring with Creon against him.
As the story continues, we see how Oedipus is easily irritated by a fewwords from a drunken man in a tavern. This once again shows his short temper.
Ironically, it was those words that sent him off to fulfill the prophecy in thefirst place. On his way out of Corinth, we catch a glimpse of another volatileexplosion. He becomes involved in a scuffle with a band of men at a crossroad.
In his fit of unleashed anger, he attacks and kills the men, not knowing thatone of the men is King Laios.
The problem with Oedipus seems to lie within his internal characterstructures. He is full of anger and rage that is expressed as quickly as it isforgotten. Oedipus is stubbornly resistant to the full details of the story,always attributing these events to mere coincidence. His ignorance comes fromhis fear of the appalling horror of the possible truth and it’s devastatingimplications.
The question of morality surfacing leads one to sympathize with Oedipus.
How could the gods be so cruel? How could this be justified by simply sayingthat it was “the work of fate”? Was it in fact fate to begin with? Thesequestions and many more like it have been raised countless times. Few concreteanswers have been found, and there is much debate over even the slightest points.
A conclusion that can be drawn, is that the plot of Oedipus the King wasentirely predestined. The characters and circumstances surrounding the eventswere all simply instruments of fate which nobody could prevent or alter.
Ultimately, Oedipus cannot be held responsible for his actions, because fate wasimmutable from the outset. It may not have been fair, kind, or just, but thefuture was preordained and irrevocable.