The Role of Fate in Oedipus Rex
Oedipus Rex was written by Sophocles as a tragedy highlighting the inevitability of fate in the lives of human beings. The finality of fate underlies in the entire theme of the play. To quote Charles Segal,
“The story of Oedipus is the archetypal myth of personal identity in Western culture. It is the myth par excellence of self-knowledge, of human power and human weakness, of the determining forces of the accidents of birth that we can neither change nor escape.”
Oedipus Rex was produced around 429 BC. At that time, the Greek social system operated not only under an advanced system of government and laws, but also through a rigid system of religion that endeavored to make man accountable for his actions. Thus, society as a whole adhered strongly to the fundamental religious precepts, and the concept of Fate, or predestination, occupied a central place in the belief-system of the Greeks.
It was believed that human life was a series of events predetermined in their fate, which was ordained by the will and whims of the gods, and could not be averted. However, some humans, by virtue of insight and good character, were in theory able to tap into divine knowledge through inspiration or prophecy. Thus, fate made itself known through prophecy. The prophet supposedly had a spiritual link with the deities, and was considered to be a medium through which the gods communicated their will to humans. The most supreme god, Apollo, son of Zeus, was also believed to be the god of prophecy. To him, many temples had been erected, some especially for the purpose of fortune-telling. One such place was the Oracle of Delphi, which housed a priestess known as the Pythia who could foretell the future. In Oedipus Rex, the reader finds repeated allusions to the concept of fate manifesting itself through prophecy. The whole plot is woven around this idea. In the storyline, prophecy holds a key significance - without it, the misfortunes that