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Fate And Free Will In Sophocles Oedipus The King Essay

In Sophocles’ O​edipus The King,​Oedipus was born with the curse that he would kill his father, Laios, and marry his mother, Jocasta. Oedipus tries to avoid his fate by running away from Corinth, however this causes him and Laios to meet one last time, and Oedipus ends up fulfilling the prophecy. With this in mind, the gods create a person’s predetermined fate, and no one can ever escape it, as Jocasta points out; “No mortal can practise the art of prophecy, no man can see the future.” (935).

O​edipus The King i​llustrates​t​hat the gods have the ultimate power in people’s’ lives rather than free will of the people, an individual cannot overcome fate because the gods determine their future, and personalities are chosen by the gods and as well influences fate. Generally speaking, in ancient Greece, people believed that gods have the ultimate power because they did not have science, so the gods were their way of explaining natural phenomenon. The play starts off with the plague killing people of Thebes, and the only way to cure the plague from Apollo’s command is to avenge the murder of Laios.

As you can see, the gods greatly influenced people’s decision­making, and because the god’s have the ultimate power, making them upset was definitely not something people wanted to do. As the priest in the book praised, “Apollo, heal us, save us from this plague!” (182). This basically means that the people believe the plague was a punishment from god, so they ask the oracle from Apollo to get the god to stop being angry with them. In Addition, King Oedipus does not know how to stop the plague so asking the prophet is his way of figuring out the unknown.

In many ways, Sophocles emphasizes the concept of fate and how it cannot be overcome because the gods determine fate. Throughout the play, the oracle or prophet plays major role because it was the only way for humans to try and understand the unknown. As a matter of fact, the oracle was never wrong according to the play, and his predictions introduced dramatic irony to the story. Alternatively, knowing the unknown causes people to try to prevent their prophecy from happening, like Laios and Oedipus. The priest told Laios that he was doomed to be murdered by his son, so to overcome his fate, “Laois had [Oedipus’s] feet pierced together behind the ankles and gave orders to abandon [Oedipus] on a mountain, leave him alone to die.” (950).

The fact that an individual may not overcome fate allows for the three year old Oedipus, with pierced feet and alone on a mountain, to be saved when he should have died due to poor medical technology in ancient Greece.Therefore, whatever choices King Laios and Jocasta make about their son aftering seeing the prophecy, the outcome going to be the same because fate is determined by the gods and can not be denied. In addition to this, personalities cause people to take certain actions or respond to the prophecy differently. In addition, each character in O​edipus The King​has a certain personality chosen by the gods that may lead to their downfall.

Personality is something Oedipus is born with, and causes him to take certain actions, which eventually leads to him blinding himself. Oedipus was born with curiosity, and he is eager to find out about his true identity, even when Jocasta warned him to forget about what the messenger said and begged him to stop searching for his destiny. Being as stubborn as he is, he declares, “Nothing can stop me now. I must know everything. Everything!” (1346). Oedipus, the man of pride and swift action, regrets knowing his true parents, so he blinded himself.

His worst fear of killing his father and marrying his mother come true. He blinds himself so that he won’t have to look upon his mother whom he bedded, his father whom he killed. However, Oedipus’s fate was already planned and no one can change his determined personality because he was born with it and it’s all part of the gods’ plan. In O​edipus the King, t​he theme of not being able to overcome fate is displayed through the fact that the gods have the ultimate power in the lives of men, fates are chosen beforehand by the gods and cannot be changed, and that the gods choose the personalities of men so that they carry out their fate.​

G​iven these points, in many situations, knowing the unknown leads characters in​Oedipus the King​to their downfall. Even though a person may be able to figure out what their future is, they do not have the power to change it, because everything is predetermined by the gods.. The pursuit of knowledge and curiosity of men, and the desire to have free will causes people to try and overcome their fate, but as displayed in O​edipus The King,​people cannot change their fate.

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