Prior to the invention of the internet, the television set, and even the postal service, the humble messenger played a vital role in the ancient Greek social structure. The messenger carried imperative missives throughout a territory and between neighboring kingdoms, literally running the messages from place to place. By simply perusing the acclaimed Greek play Oedipus Rex, modern analysts witness the significance messengers play in the ancient world. Composed by Sophocles around 468 B.C., Oedipus Rex investigates the limits of free will and the overall power of fate through the doomed journey of proud Oedipus. The messengers in Oedipus Rex serve as nexuses between fate and Oedipus, delivering writs to trigger Oedipus' destiny. Employing the role of the messenger as a conduit, Sophocles explores Oedipus' limited free will under the confines of fate through the appearances of the de facto messenger at the banquet, the Corinthian messenger, and the palace messenger.
Oedipus' encounter with the de facto messenger at a banquet acts a catalyst to his decision to seek the truth, beginning his journey on fate's chosen path. In a conversation with Jocasta, Oedipus quickly summarizes his exchange with the de facto messenger, "A man at the banquet table, who had had too much to drink, told me, over his wine, that I was not the true son of my father" (Oedipus Rex 55). With this dreadful news, Oedipus desperately seeks the truth, only to discover an appalling destiny. Based on the newly acquired knowledge, Oedipus chooses to flee his home to evade his fate to sleep with his mother and slay his father. Self-confident and adroit, Oedipus believes he possesses the not only the power to direct his own destiny, but also has the skill to thwart fate. Although Oedipus concedes his frailty in the face of the gods' the edicts, he attempts to elude his fate; Oedipus still believes that he possesses more power than the gods and can outrun their declaration of his destiny. The de...
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