The Downfall of a King – By His Own Hand?
Friedrich Nietzche stated “The edge of wisdom is turned against the wise man; wisdom is a crime committed on nature”: such are the terrible words addressed to us by myth.” (136). The tragic Greek play Oedipus Tyrannus, by Sophocles, seems to present Oedipus both as having free will to make decisions and also being the victim of fate, which the Greeks believed to guide the universe. Oedipus was acting freely of his own free will throughout the play and by pushing for answers in the fashion that he did, Oedipus gained knowledge that ultimately caused his downfall. When Creon returns from Apollo’s Pythian shrine with news regarding how the city of Thebes might be saved, he offers Oedipus the opportunity to hear this news in private. This is a chance for Oedipus to weigh the information and make a careful decision about how to proceed, but he chooses instead to have the entire dialog with Creon for all to see. The cause of the plague is the murder of King Laius, and this crime has to be solved in order to remove the plague and save the city of Thebes. Oedipus, acting of his own free will, agrees to find this man and punish him. With a degree of pride, he states, “On the assassin or assassins, I call down the most vile damnation-for this vicious act, may the brand of shame be theirs to wear forever. And if I knowingly harbor their guilt within my own walls, I shall not exempt myself from the curse that I have called upon them” (8). He is in fact cursing himself and this foreshadows events later in the play. Oedipus furthermore pushes for answers from Teiresias, despite harsh warnings from him that the answers he seeks will only bring him grief. Teiresias finally admits, “I say that you, Oedipus Tyrannus, are the murderer you seek!” (10). This only enrages Oedipus and leads him to accuse Teiresias of plotting with Creon to overthrow the throne he occupies. Creon offers insight to the bad choices that Oedipus makes, stating,...
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