Oedipus Rex: Fate vs. Free Will

Topics: Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Prophecy Pages: 3 (919 words) Published: November 18, 2013
Oedipus the King: Fate vs. Free Will

Most religions teach humans that their choices matter, but also that there is a greater force that will determine the course of events and final outcomes of our lives. The debate on whether our lives are based on fate or free will has been long standing with several different opinions and points of view. In Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King”, fate and free will battle it out in the tale of Oedipus’ life. Although “Oedipus the King” portrays multiple characters trying to express free will, it is clear that Sophocles believes purely in fate. “Oedipus the King” gives the reader an insight into the minds of how Sophocles, and possibly other Greek tragedians, believed our lives were lived. Three prophecies were used in “Oedipus the King” to demonstrate the views of Sophocles: the first being told to King Laius that his newborn son will murder him, the second being that Oedipus will kill the father who gave him life, and lastly that Oedipus will couple with his mother.

To begin is Sophocles’ first prophecy used in the story showing his belief in fate. An oracle came to Laius one fine day and declared that "doom would strike him down at the hands of a son” (lines 787-788). Oedipus was prophesied to murder his father before his birth even took place. Sophocles shows characters trying to express free will and avoid fate when Laius nails his sons own feet together, and throws him to a shepherd to handle his death. Instead of doing his duties and getting rid of Oedipus, the shepherd who “pitied the little baby” (line 1301), had taken him to another king and queen to live. Here, Sophocles is giving Oedipus another chance to live out his prophecy and show that fate is just inescapable, no matter what measures are taken. Because Sophocles does not let Oedipus die before reaching his fate, we can clearly see that he purely believes in fate over free will.

Next, Sophocles shows us once more that he believes in fate by bringing Oedipus...
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