The ancient Greeks were well-known for their tragedies. These tragedies played a big role in the process of carrying out investigations about the nature of man and the position man held in the world and also the powers that served to control man’s life. Tragedy in most cases involves a change in the fortune of a man and this normally presents a powerful feeling of waste. It is often not foreseen. Tragedy usually moves hand in hand with sorrow, misery and emotional agony. The play “Oedipus the King”, written by Sophocles, gives a clear demonstration of remarkable disaster that was not foreseen by the protagonist in which a character of respect was involved and there was the inclusion of irony and accompaniment of emotional agony and misery. This paper is going to present an argument against the statement that “man’s fate, not any flaw in character, is responsible for the tragedy that occurs in ‘Oedipus the King’”.
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Tragedy in Oedipus the King: Is it fate or flaw in character that is responsible?
Debates have come up in regard to the issue of fate. The question that is often asked as to whether the actions of a human being have a role to play in bringing about the influence on the life of the person or not. There is often a dilemma as to whether fate has a very strong influence on one’s life to a point that a person can not have influence over his or her life and therefore not completely free or not.
In the current days, most people in society are not accepting the concept of fate and this concept is often deemed as being too much idealistic, imaginary and quite unclear to understand. However, this idea or concept of fate was a big terrifying reality during the era of Oedipus for the largest part of the Greek society. Fate was a very powerful force that could not be stopped and there existed a very strong belief that no one was able to change his or her future and any effort made in regard to this was futile.
In the play “Oedipus the King” fate can be clearly noticed which influences people’s lives in the play. However, a person can make his or her own decision in life without fate having any influence. A person is responsible for making decisions that affect him or her. In this play, Oedipus is seen to exercise his own free will in coming up with decisions. This story also talks about Oedipus’ past and what occurs in his life by him engaging in making choices.
Free will in the story is seen in the case where a plague occurs in Thebes which could only be brought to a halt by getting those people who killed King Lauis. King Oedipus comes forward and tells Creon that he puts curses upon King Lauis’ murderer. (Sophocles, 15: Ln 280 – 283.). He gives an indication of free will because Oedipus says the killer is going to be taken to exile instead of saying that he is going to kill the murderer or take him to jail.
Free will is also expressed in the case where Oedipus refuses to cease searching for the truth that Jocasta and Lauis were his parents when he was told by Jocasta not to search the truth. She insists that he stops the search for his own good and she does not want to be subjected to any more suffering (Sophocles, 67: Ln 1603 – 1605). The answer from Oedipus is that he is not in any way willing to listen to her and he is ready to take whatever the necessary steps to get to know the truth (Sophocles, 68: Ln 1169 – 1170). This indicates free will exercised by Oedipus since Jocasta is against his coming to know about his past. Oedipus insists and is not ready to listen to her. If Oedipus had listened to her, he wouldn’t be in a position of knowing the truth in regard to his past.
Free will is also indicted where Oedipus makes a decision to stab his own eyes. He makes an announcement to the people that he makes himself blind because he has discovered that he married his own mother, Jocasta, and had killed his own father, Lauis. This is a decision of free will, otherwise, instead of him making a decision to make himself blind, he would have made a choice to take responsibility and apologize to Jocasta.
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It can be concluded that Oedipus in this play has indicated free will in several instances. As opposed to fate, free will allows people to come up with their own decisions that may influence their lives. Oedipus had intentions of designing his own fate and did not want anybody else to control his life. The decisions he made almost cost him his own life. Fate causes things to happen in someone’s life without the person having any influence over this. However, on the part of free will, a person comes up with his or her own decisions and in case this person makes mistakes, it is upon him to deal with the consequences.
Sophocles, Oedipus the King. Arlington: Richer Resources Publication, 2007