Essay on Fate in Oedipus Rex and The Seagull

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Role of Fate in Oedipus Rex and The Seagull

The inevitability of fate is a key theme in Sophocles' 'Oedipus Rex' and in Chekhov's 'The Seagull'. I was fascinated by the ways this inevitability was conveyed by Chekhov and Sophocles respectively and the ways in which the actions of the characters contributed to and heightened their fate. I shall attempt to compare and contrast the way in which Oedipus and, to a lesser extent, Nina make their fates more unbearable by their own actions and choices. In each case the author uses characterisation to enhance and increase the sense of inevitability and hence the sense of tragedy in the respective plays.

Sophocles has created his Oedipus not as innately evil but as a likeable character. It is this that makes the conclusion of his play even more tragic.[1] Had Oedipus been presented as an evil character we would have felt much less sympathetic towards him, as it is Oedipus appears to be the very essence of goodness at the commencement of the play and in this way makes his downfall owing to a realisation of the truth even more dramatic. He is an 'ideal king' - one who feels for his people. This addition to a well-known story by Sophocles makes the resultant dramatic irony extremely effective.

His evident flaws of character make it plausible that he could have unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. He is human but at the start of the play his excessive pride, impetuousness and efficiency, all human failings, seem to obscure and divert his search for the truth. Furthermore, he is arrogant and conceited, particularly concerning his personal successes:

"Oedipus: Why, when the monster with her song was here, spak'st thou no word our countrymen to help? And yet the riddle lay above the ken...and called for prophets skill...but then I came...and slew her."

These features of Oedipus' personality lead him inevitably to assume that he, the great Oedipus, liberator of his people, could not possibly be the murderer that they seek. Hence, it is Oedipus' inflated ego that causes his fate to be so severe and his downfall so great at the end of the play. Furthermore, despite Teiresias' words early in the play, Oedipus refuses to believe the truth that he is responsible for Laios' death. His arrogance leads him to unknowingly curse himself, thus making his fate worse:

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