Sophocles’ King Oedipus is a controversial yet transformative work of literature. A masterpiece of its time and even now, in a modern society its strong themes are widely applicable. One, if not the most provoking themes in this tragedy is fate. Fate as it is eminently implicated in King Oedipus challenges all that we believe. Sophocles upsets with magnificent accuracy one’s reasoning of fate and free will. Shaking the thought of fate as god of our lives, we need to understand all that it reflects and seek not only the role of fate in King Oedipus but also the role of belief in such a thing as fate. Meaning of Fate
Fate or predestination is “the development of events, outside a persons’ control, as predetermined by supernatural power” Examining this description with the line of developments in King Oedipus, one can partly identify fate in the play with its formal description. Oedipus’ actions, e.g. killing his father and sleeping with his mother, “sinful in marriage, sinful in shedding blood” (Sophocles, King Oedipus 1228) is the developments mentioned in the description mentioned above. The next phrase, “outside a person’s control”, is not true in the case of Oedipus. He had control over his actions, as he has a free will. He chose to murder a fellow road user (King Laius) and to take Jocasta as his wife. He did not however do this with the knowledge to the identity of his birth parents, Jocasta and Laius. Finally one can add the power of the supernatural in this catastrophic equation. The inevitable play out of fate by “supernatural powers” is supported by the historical belief of ancient Grecians. In the esoteric past of Greece where King Oedipus is set, around 430 B.C., it was widely believed that even the god’s cannot alter one’s fate. Albeit a powerful god like Apollo, the god of prophecy and healing. (SparkNotes Editors, 2002) Understanding the meaning of fate is the starting point to comprehending its absolute presence in King Oedipus. Knowing, the observer can investigate fate as theme, which has been so strongly woven into the storyline, one must also examine its polar – choice. Question arises within the mind of the reader that “while free choices such as Oedipus’ decision to pursue the knowledge of his identity” (Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008), are significant, Oedipus on the other hand has not made these choices with the knowledge of its consequences. Answering this, is the acknowledgement of fates’ role in the choices made by the characters. Undeniably fate has the upper hand in this destroying battle.
Fate in context with King Oedipus
The exposition of the play is Oedipus’ appearance from his palace in Thebes to the priest and chorus to resolve their plight for deliverance from plague. Note that their constant presence is instrument in strengthening the feeling of inescapable fate. Without their presence one can argue that Oedipus would have found leeway for his actions. Especially based on his pride and ‘god’ complex. (Brewis, 2009) The first incident of fate is when Oedipus, as king and leader of Thebans, sends, his trustworthy friend and brother to his wife, Creon to the temple of Apollo to find out what the fate is for the plagued city of Thebes and how to rid it from its pestilence. Forthcoming out of the visit Creon made to Apollo is the god’s answer, “There is an unclean thing, born and nursed on our soil, polluting our soil, which must be driven away.” (Sophocles, King Oedipus 97-99). Consecutive to this prognostication is that the murderer of Laius, former king of Thebes must be duly prosecuted for his actions for Thebes to be freed from its downfall. Note, that the over-rash yet ironically fair Oedipus decides to condemn the unknown killer of Laius. This reference in the very beginning of the play to predestination is a forecast to the doomed fate that plays out in the pages to follow. This early mention also establishes Oedipus’s belief in fate and is ultimately a...