Morality in Oedipus Tyrannus

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Morality in Oedipus Tyrannus

By | May 2008
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People often confuse the terms “guilt” and “responsibility” for one another. Can these terms be freely intertwined with one another or are they separate entities altogether? However, in this case these terms, regardless of how closely related they are to each other, have different meanings. Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus is a tragic play that revolves around the issues of morality. The question that thus stands is whether Oedipus was guilty and or responsible for patricide and incest. Significant factors such as the lack of knowledge, the importance of riddles, the role of prophecies and his destiny and fate and the issues of free will and choice must be taken into consideration in accounting for Oedipus crimes. Undoubtedly, Oedipus is responsible for his actions, but he is not guilty for his unspeakable crimes.

Oedipus’ failure of knowledge engages him a whirlwind of events. When Oedipus’s identity is in question, Oedipus heads to the Delphic oracle in hopes of finding an answer to his fate. The oracle offers no answer, but provides him with a prophecy, telling him that he will murder his father and sleep with his mother. Understandably so, this is a prophecy in which Oedipus goes to extreme means to avoid. His desire to protect those whom he calls his mother and father proves futile. These people share no blood relation to Oedipus and are out of harm’s way. As the tragic hero makes his way to Thebes, Oedipus comes across a three-way crossroads. A crossroads is a place where a choice has to be made. Consequently, crossroads signify moments where decisions will have imperative meanings but where other choices are still possible. In Oedipus Tyrannus, the crossroads is part of the distant past, dimly remembered, and Oedipus was not aware at the time that he was making a fateful decision. The crossroads symbolizes fate and the power of prophecy rather than freedom and free will. It is here that Laius and Oedipus meet and come to blows at the crossroads,...

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