Did Oedipus Rex Act Upon Free Will Or Did The Gods Have His Fate Set?

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Did Oedipus Rex act upon free will or did the gods have his fate set?


Oedipus' unyielding desire to uncover the truth about Laius' murder and the mystery surrounding his own birth, led him to the tragic realization of his horrific deeds. Teiresias, Jocasta, and the herdsman tried to stop him from pursuing the truth. Take for example a part of the last conversation between Jocasta and Oedipus.

Oedipus Rex act upon free will

After realizing that the prophecy had came true, Jocasta begs him to let the mystery go unsolved for once. No! By the gods, no; leave it if you care for your own life. I suffer. 'Tis enough”. Oedipus replies, I cannot yield my right to know the truth”. He is unable to stop his quest for the truth, even under his wife's pleading. For it is in his own vain that he must solve the final riddle of his own life. At the end of this tragic story, when Oedipus gouges out his eyes, The events in Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, show an underlying relationship of man's free will existing within the cosmic order or fate that the Greeks believed guided the universe. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held responsible for his own actions. Both the concepts of fate and free will played an integral part in Oedipus' destruction.

Although he was a victim of fate, he was not controlled by it. Oedipus was destined from birth to someday marry his mother and to murder his father. This prophecy as warned by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi was unconditional and inevitably would come to pass, no matter what he may have done to avoid it. His past actions were determined by fate, but his adventures in Thebes were controlled by his own free will. From the beginning of this tragedy, Oedipus took many actions leading to his own downfall. He could have endured the plague, but out of compassion for his suffering people, he had Creon go to Delphi. When he learned of Apollo's word, he could have calmly investigated the murder of the former King Laius, but in his hastiness, he condemns the murderer, and in so, unknowingly curses himself.

Tis a just zeal for the cause of that slain man. And right it is in me that ye shall see me fighting that cause for Phoebus and for Thebes”. In order for Sophocles' play to be categorized as tragic, the tragic hero had to have some sort of a flaw. The hero's tragic flaws are the qualities, which ultimately lead to his downfall. Oedipus' pride, ignorance, insolence towards the gods, and unrelenting quest for the truth ultimately contributed to his destruction. When Terrisias told Oedipus that he was responsible for the murder of Laius, he became enraged and calls the old oracle a liar. He ran away from his home in Corinth, in hopes of outsmarting the gods divine will. Like his father, Oedipus also sought ways to escape the horrible destiny ...
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