Oedipus is the quintessential tragic hero, according to the Aristotelian definition, because his demise is entirely of his own doing. In the ongoing debate of fate versus free will, Oedipus proves that fate will only take a person so far. There is no arguing that he was dealt a dreadful hand by the Gods, but it is by his own free will that his prized life collapses. Oedipus could, and should have done nothing given the prophecies of the oracle, although either way his fate would have been realized. His apparent powerlessness against fate cannot be positively reconciled with his own willfulness in seeking self knowledge which stems from his unparalleled hubris. After his fall from grace, Oedipus should have learned that he should not have so vehemently pursued the truth about himself; some things are simply better left unknown. Unfortunately, he only blames the gods and is oblivious to his own part in the matter. Sophocles's audience and humanity learn the lesson that was intended for Oedipus, and also not to question the gods or fate.
The play Oedipus Rex opens long after Oedipus' fate has been revealed to him by the oracle. It is foreseen that Oedipus should lie with his own mother, breed children from whom all men would turn their eyes, and that Oedipus should be his father's murderer (750). Unbeknownst to him, this has all already taken place when Sophocles begins Oedipus Rex. In trying to escape from the edict, he only ensures its actualization. On the way out of Corinth, which he believes to be his home where his mother and father live, he fulfils half of his fate by killing his true father, King Laios. Then, after defeating the Sphinx, he takes his mother, Queen Iocaste, as his bride and begets children. Yet, dreaded as the fate is, he is beyond content with his new station and family. He is unaware of his relation to the dead old man, and his new wife. Ignorance, in this case, truly is bliss. There is no way Oedipus could have possibly...
Cited: Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Fitts, Dudley and Robert Fitzgerald, trans. Theatre & Dramatic Literature Before 1800. Comp. and Ed. James Wilson. Montreal: Eastman Systems Inc., 2004. 31-52.
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