Fate and Freedom in Oedipus the King and Prometheus Bound
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Fate and freedom is a recurring central theme in many great Greek tragedies, perhaps because part of the power of tragedy is the sense of inevitability. Since it is unavoidable, those who attempted to circumvent their destiny would end up fulfilling it in an ironic, hence tragic, fashion. Freedom, on the other hand, is only a sense of illusion. The two tragedies Oedipus the King and Prometheus Bound effectively exemplify the Greek’s concept of fate and freedom.
In Oedipus the King, fate is the antagonist and deeply intertwined in the plot. All the characters attempting to escape it eventually succumb, even bringing about a fate worse than their own as a punishment for fighting Fate. The first two characters who not only try to avoid but also cheat fate are King Laius and his wife Jocasta, whom upon hearing the prophesy from the Oracle of Delphi that he would father a son who would murder him, abandon their son to send him to death. However, fate, being impossible to match, leads a shepherd to find the infant and later gives the baby to the king of Corinth to raise. The infant grows up to be Oedipus the King, and soon after he receives the same prophesy that was given to his father through Teiresias. Oedipus is destined to find out that he is a native Theban; that he is both father and brother to his children, and both son and husband to his wife; and that he will lose everything, be blind and exiled. Again, in an attempt to avoid such horrible destiny, he flees Corinth, only to later find out how hopeless he is against fate. Fate loves irony, and on Oedipus’ way to Thebes, his real birth-place, he unwittingly kills his father, King Laius. After reaching the kingless town of Thebes, he becomes king and marries the queen Jocasta, h...
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...erhaps Prometheus is not only bound by the chain, but also bound by the tension between fate and freedom: he consciously submitted to the unchallengeable power of fate, but still believes in the freedom of making choices. According to Greek’s traditional view about fate and destiny, one could argue that the perceived free choices are not actually free, but also controlled by fate. If freedom is the ability to choose otherwise, both mortals and immortals in Greek world are void of freedom.
Oedipus the King and Prometheus Bound together illustrate the undeniable power of fate in Greek literature and also the insignificant role of freedom, which is merely a misconception. Any attempt to act freely so as to avoid and cheat fate ends up in utter failure as fate ultimately comes out victoriously in the end, reaffirming that Necessity is a force not to be reckoned with.