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Oedipus Fate vs Free Will

Oedipus the King, was written by Sophocles between C. A. 496-406B. C. In this play, Oedipus is a great example of Sophocles’ belief that fate will control a man’s life no matter how much free will exists. Oedipus is a man of unflagging determination and perseverance, but one who must learn through the working out of a terrible prophecy that there are forces beyond any man’s conceptualization or control. Oedipus’ actions were determined before his birth, yet Oedipus’ actions are entirely determined by the Gods who control him completely.

In the beginning of this tragedy, Oedipus took many actions leading to his own downfall. He tried to escape Corinth when he learned of the prophecies that were supposed to take place in his life. Instead, he fell right into the trap of the prediction by unwittingly killing his father and later marrying his mother. By doing this, he proved that his life was predetermined by fate and there was nothing he could do to change it.

He could have waited for the plague to end, but out of compassion for his suffering people, he had Creon go to Delphi to plead before Apollo to relieve the curse of the plague. Instead of investigating the murder of the former King Lauis, Oedipus took matters into his own hands and cursed the murderer, now the curse would effect him as well, because he was the one who killed Lauis.

“Now my cursed on the murderer,/Whoever he is, alone man unknown in his crime or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step- I curse myself as well as… by any chance he proves to be an intimate of our house, here at my hearth, with my full know ledge, may the curse I just called down on him strike me! ” (606). Oedipus doesn’t realize the personal consequences his hunt for the murderer will have for him, and his loyalty to the truth is based on his ignorance. His pride, ignorance and unrelenting quest for the truth ultimately contributed to his destruction. An example is when Oedipus was told [after threatening Tiresias], that he was responsible for the murder of Laius.

He became enraged and called the old oracle a liar. However, Oedipus thought he could outsmart the gods, but in fact, his every action moved him closer to the prophesy becoming a reality. Upon discovery of the truth of his birth from the herdsman, Oedipus cries, “O god all come true, all burst to light! /O light now let me look my last on you! /I stand revealed at last cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands”. (631). Oedipus knew that his fate had indeed come to pass and feels cursed by it.

Oedipus was guilt, of killing his father and marrying his mother. He punishes himself for the sins he committed by gouging out his eyes. The true sin is when he attempts to raise himself to the level of the gods by trying to escape his fate. Oedipus is accepting the full burden of his acts and knows that he must be punished for his sins. Therefore, this last act of gouging out his eyes was the result of Oedipus’ free will and his tragic fate came about because every sin must be punished.

Sophocles feels that a person has no control over the course of his life. No matter how much free will Oedipus had in controlling his life, fate had already taken control. Therefore, fate is proved to be inevitable. Oedipus is one play that is held together by the fact that fate is more powerful than anyone’s free will. Fate is the one true evil– everything that happens is somehow meant to be, and free will cannot change it.

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