AP Literature and Composition / Period 7
24 October 2012
The Tragic Destiny of Oedipus
Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is one of the most well- known tragic plays in existence. Oedipus, the King of Thebes, is the victim of a curse in which he must suffer the tragedy of his own unchangeable fate. The tragic heroism of Oedipus befalls him because of his heroic qualities and his loyalty to his Thebans and to himself. His unchangeable destiny affects so many others throughout the play. These others’ subsequent suffering that Oedipus brings upon them helps contribute to the tragic vision of the work as a whole.
Many provide insight on the fact that the gods or the fates destined Oedipus to kill his father and marry his mother; but, despite such questions, Sophocles answers them by implying that “it is bound to happen (Dodds).” In other words, Oedipus cannot evade his destiny. In spite of these differences in opinion, “all agree about the essential moral innocence of Oedipus (Dodds).” The question then is raised that if Oedipus is innocent to his “tragedy of destiny (Dodds),” is he simply a puppet to the gods’ will? The Greeks were predestined to “die on their appointed day (Dodds),” but this did not make them slaves to their destiny. “The gods know the future, but they do not order it (Dodds).” This leads readers to be fascinated by the path of destruction that Oedipus takes of his own free will. Nobody tells him to discover the truth. He has to. He is the king. His fate is sealed from his own “strength and courage, his loyalty to Thebes, and his loyalty to the truth (Dodds).” This following of loyalty caused others in his path to suffer it. Oedipus, in search of his destiny, kills a man who, unbeknownst to him, happens to be his own father and King of Thebes. This is essential because Oedipus is supposedly innocent to his tragedy of destiny. One can infer, then, that Laios’ death is of the will of the gods, not his own...
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