Comparing the Fate of Oedipus and Phaedra

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Oedipus' destruction was foretold to his father and mother, Laius and Jocasta, when he was born. It was told to him again when he was a young Corinthian prince, to which he ran from home ("I heard all that and ran" 876). Tiresias tells it to him again during the passage of the Oedipus Rex. The destiny of Oedipus has been laid down, unalterable from the moment he was created. He was fated to marry his mother and kill his father. Phaedra is not controlled by fate. She is possessed by a frivolous deity ("the goddess' anger has landed on your head" p142), stung by her lack of praise and with a grudge against Phaedra's stepson Hippolytus. Thus it is the goddess, Aphrodite, that causes Phaedra to fall in love with the young Athenian prince. The suicide of Phaedra, and her lying words on the note she writes before she dies, brings destruction on the blasphemous Hippolytus, as his father Theseus curses his son. Both characters undeniably have supernatural powers acting upon their destiny. However, it is important to remember that her suicide and the destruction of Hippolytus are not on account of fate. She is under control of the goddess Artemis. Therefore her actions are not directly under her control. Oedipus on the hand has a path laid out by fate ("you were born for pain" 1305). It is a path that has been destined for him all of his life and he is aware of what the gods have set in motion. He is a "man of agony". However, it is Oedipus' fighting of the gods' judgement which brings the destruction. The path might have been laid out but it was Oedipus that walked down it. Oedipus' own innate character flaw (hamartia) of hubris (pride) is his own undoing and without it his fate could not have come to pass. His pride forced him to k...

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Works Cited

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Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Penguin Books, 1940.

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Sophocles. "Oedipus Rex." An Introduction to Literature, 11th ed. Eds. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: Longman, 1997. 800-836.

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