Oedipus the King: Guilty or Innocent

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A Reaction Paper in English 106 (Greek Drama)

Oedipus the King: Guilty or Innocent

Submitted to

Dr. Ulysses B. Aparece

Submitted by

Elmer J. Mangubat

Guilty or Innocent

Guilt presupposes the commission of sin; yet what comprises sin? From the moral standpoint, sin is the denial of what is good that is ought to be done or to happen; or sin is the omission of what is ought to be done. For sin to be categorized as such, there has to be a set of moral standards from which judgment on whether sin happens or not proceeds. Thus, to say Oedipus is guilty remains to be seen. Proponents have long debated over Oedipus’s guilt or innocence.

I would like to react on some of P.H. Vellacot’s assertions on the guilt of Oedipus. Firstly, Vellacot says “the terrible destiny of Oedipus is shown as one put upon him by supernatural powers in general, by that comprehensive Fate which governs every man’s life.” At the onset of his commentary, Vellacot seems to suggest that Oedipus is already latched into this tragic path of destiny—as ordained by Fate, with the concurrence, of course, of the gods. In the intricate lives of Greek heroes and heroines, the role of the gods and goddesses is a predominant theme. It is not surprising, therefore, that Oedipus is no exception. It’s as if his fate has long been sealed, and the oracles and prophesies are just a confirmation to this tragic playing of his role. As the term comprehensive suggests, Oedipus is bound to follow his fate as preordained by the powers that be.

Secondly, Vellacot argues that if everything is because of fate then Oedipus is without sin; therefore, there can be no tragedy. Then he purports this question: “How can there be a true tragedy without sin?” Following this line of thinking, Vellacot asserts that Sophocles must provide the sound claim for Oedipus’s sin to justify the tragic character of the play—thus Oedipus’s false...
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