“Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles

Subject: Literature
Pages: 4
Words: 890
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor

In the Sophocles’ famous play, Oedipus Rex, the protagonist Oedipus cannot be held accountable for committing patricide and incest. From the time Oedipus was born fate had already marked him. No amount of running could save him from his fate. The actions he commits of killing his father and marrying his mother were bound to happen. He unconsciously kills a man without knowing that he has just killed his father. Oedipus is not ware that the woman he married was indeed his real mother. The crimes he commits are due to his blindness to the truth. This makes him ignorant to his faults. Oedipus commits patricide and incest unconsciously as a result of fate and fulfillment of a mysterious prophesy.

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Oedipus is raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth whom he believes are his parents. As a grown man, he has an encounter with a drunken man who alleges that he is not the real son of his father. Even after the reassurance from his parents, he is mentally disturbed and decides to seek the help of an oracle. In response the oracle fails to explain who his biological parents are but instead states that he would commit patricide and incest. The news of prophecy horrifies him so much that his quest to know his true identity is forgotten. Oedipus decides to run away to escape his fate.

On his journey he comes to a crossroad where he gets involved in an argument with a stranger. The stranger is very high tempered and strikes Oedipus who is quick enough to throw the stranger down killing him instantly. The irony is that the stranger he kills happens to be his biological father. As Oedipus continues with his journey he comes across a sphinx monster. The monster had been terrorizing and killing the Thebes peoples who fail to answer its riddle (Sophocles, 1978). Oedipus is quick to respond to a riddle which causes the monster to destroy itself. The people of Thebes are pleased by Oedipus actions and decide to crowns him as their King. He is later offered the hand of a woman to marry. All these actions pave way for the second prophecy to be fulfilled. Fate has an upper hand in all the events of his life and Oedipus had no way of avoiding it. He becomes a victim of fate. He cannot act on his own free will which makes him innocent of his own actions.

Sophocles brings out the theme of prophecy and fate in the way it has a hold over the lives of Oedipus, his real father Laios, and mother Jocasta. The oracle had foretold the future of the baby born to Laios and Jocasta. The parents of the boy saw it fit to kill the boy to avoid the fate of prophecy and sent a shepherd to commit the dreadful act. With fate having its way, it lets the shepherd have pity on the infant and gives him away to a Corinth shepherd who in turn takes him to the King of Corinth. He is adopted by the King and Queen of Corinth and raised as their royal prince. The destiny of the boy is already set. Fate has it all planned for the boy to be saved, brought up by a different set of parents and later flee from them to accomplish the foretold events (Sophocles, 1978).

On the other hand Oedipus decides to control fate. After the visit to the oracle he decides to abandon his parents and flee to avoid fulfilling the prophecy. His effort in controlling fate leads him to meet a stranger and kills him not being aware that he is in fact killing his own father. The Prophecy is fulfilled despite the efforts of the father and his son in trying to avoid fate. Laios was sure that his doomed son had already died when he sent the servant to kill him (Sophocles, 1978). He could not fathom that the young man he is engaged in a fight with is of the same age as his son. This could have stopped him from fighting the young man but he is quick to engage in a fight that leads to his death.

Fate enables the second prophecy to be accomplished by ensuring that Oedipus defeats the Sphinx monster. The people of Thebes honor him by crowning him as their king. As a reward he is given a wife to marry. He cannot decline the offer despite the woman being old enough to be his own mother. Oedipus goes ahead and marries his own mother without his knowledge. All these actions are set by the fate to accomplish the foretold prophesy.

The play proves that fate and the two prophecies determine the outcome of the events that happen to Oedipus. From the beginning of the play Oedipus is sure that he has been able to control his fate. The plague plays the role of revealing the murderer of Laius. In his bid to uncover the truth Oedipus realizes that he has not been in control of his life and is deeply apologetic of his actions that he chooses to live as a blind person. It can thus be argued that he commits both patricide and incest unknowingly and should not be held responsible for fulfilling an evil prophesy.

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Sophocles. (1978). “Oedipus Rex.” In Perrine, Laurence (Ed.). Literature structure, sound, and sense (pp.1085-1128). Chicago: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.