Destiny, Fate, and Free Will in Oedipus the King

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The Tragic Fate of Oedipus the King

 

      In the play Oedipus the King, Oedipus the main character meets with a

tragic fate.  In the beginning he is a mighty king, ruler of the city of

Thebes.  Then the people of Thebes come to him with a problem.  The city is

tragically on the surge of death.  Oedipus, being the mighty king he is, is

determined to solve the problem.   Oedipus saved the city once before and

became a hero.  Now faced with this problem he would like to be a hero

again, but things don't always take a turn out good.

 

      When the priest and the people of Thebes come to Oedipus, the

priest tells Oedipus, "Your own eyes must tell you: Thebes is in her

extremity and cannot lift her head from the surge of death." (802).  They

then tell Oedipus that they know he is a great king and they turn to him to

find a remedy.  Oedipus saved the city once before from the Sphinx by

solving the riddle and destroying her.  Now faced with this new problem he

has no choice but to solve the problem and save the city once again.

 

      Oedipus then sends his brother Creon to get whatever information he

can.  Creon leaves the city and then comes back with some information.  He

tells Oedipus that the gods command them to expel from the land of Thebes

an old defilement that it seems they shelter.  The gods tell them to take

revenge upon whoever killed there past king.  Oedipus, now the mighty king,

is determined to find out what happened.  He says, "Then once more I must

bring what is dark to light.  You shall see how I stand by you, as I should,

to avenge the city and the city's god." (804).

 

      The first thing Oedipus does is to call on Teiresias who is the

holy prophet in whom, alone of all men, truth was born.  When Teiresias

arrives he tells Oedipus, " Let me go home.  Bear your own fate, and I'll

bear mine.  It is better so: trust what I say." (808).  Oedipus can not

accept this and demands to know what Teiresias knows.  He calls Teiresias a

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wicked man and tells him he has no feeling.  Teiresias still refuses and

then Oedipus charges Teiresias with the crime.  Teiresias then tells

Oedipus what he knows, "I say that you are the murderer whom you seek."

(809).   Oedipus can not believe this and then says, "Are you speaking for

Creon, or for yourself?" Oedipus is in so disbelief he blames Creon of the

crime thinking that Creon did it for wealth, power, and the king's position.

 

 

      When Creon hears this he goes to Oedipus and tells him that he is

innocent and that he can't believe that Oedipus would blame him of this

crime.  Oedipus asks him about Teiresias and why didn't he tell him this

news before.  Oedipus says, why did Teiresias keep this news about me to

himself?    Creon then says, they asked him before and the prophet did not

speak of you.  Then Oedipus says, " If he were not involved with you, he

could not say that it was I who murdered the king." (814).  Creon then

tells Oedipus that he wouldn't even want to be king.  He wouldn't want that

responsibility and that he has the perfect position.  He has none of the

king worries and all of the king power.

 

      Then Oedipus, still in disbelief that he is the killer, starts to

find out the truth.  In talking to his wife, Iocaste, she tells him that

the only person who saw the killing is an old servant of hers who left the

city.  Oedipus calls for the servant to return to the city.  When the

servant comes to the city he doesn't want to talk to Oedipus, but Oedipus

forces him to tell what he knows.  The servant tells Oedipus that the past

king had him take his son and leave him on a mountainside because it was

said that his son would kill him.  The servant then says that he took the

child but couldn't leave him, so he gave him to someone of a far away city.

He then told Oedipus that he was this child.

 

        Then Oedipus remembers that on his way to Thebes that he had a

confrontation with some men and killed them.  Oedipus then realizes that he

killed his father, the king, and goes to find his wife, who is also his

mother for she was married to the past king.  When he finds his wife he

finds that she had killed herself.  Oedipus can not believe what he has

done and stabs his eyes out with a broch that his dead wife is wearing.

 

      After this Oedipus comes out and calls on Creon to tell him that he

is sorry for all that he has done.  He tells Creon to take care of his

children and to grant him one last wish.  That after he talks to the people

of Thebes and tells them all that has happened, he wants Creon to lead him

out of the city to die.

 

        Oedipus is lead out to the people of Thebes and they are told to

look at him, their  mighty king which all eyes once looked upon with envy,

and now at the end, ruin swept over him. It is said,  "Let every man in

mankind's frailty consider his last day; and let none presume on his good

fortune until he find life, at his death, a memory without pain." (836).

 

        All Oedipus tried to do was to save the city that he once saved

before, but ended up only being a tragic hero.


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