Rex And Oedipus Rex

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One of the most important questions that society has been asking since the ancient times is to what extent man rules over his own destiny. For some people, destiny is entirely a matter of choice—that the purpose of and events in life are the consequences of conscious decisions. On the other hand, some people assert that destiny is preordained, which means that the events in life are inevitable and hence man is essentially powerless to stop them. Like many other questions relating to life, human control over destiny has found its way into becoming themes in great works of literature. Two of these works are Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, written in the 5th century B.C., and Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, which comes from his greater work, The Divine Comedy, published in the 14th century A.D. Apart from being separated by many centuries, these two works offer differing views on the question of destiny. Whereas Oedipus Rex advances the predetermined and therefore inevitable nature of destiny, Inferno asserts that destiny is a matter of choice. Determining whether man can or cannot control destiny can be a difficult task, as proof is necessary in order to demonstrate that the progression of events follows a preconceived course rather than one that is random and subject to the influence of individual choices. In Oedipus Rex, the proof on which predetermination lies is the existence of a prophecy. In order to understand this, one must consider the events that took place before the time of the play. In the scene in which Oedipus speaks with the messenger from Corinth, Oedipus refers to the reason why he fled Corinth. The king states, “I dread the oracle from the go, stranger…No, you may hear it. Apollo told me I would become my mother’s lover, ... ... middle of paper ... ... and Dante’s Inferno offer contrasting views of destiny. The fulfillment of the prophecy in Oedipus Rex in spite of the character’s conscious effort to prevent it serves to illustrate the inescapable nature of destiny. As the prophesied fates of Oedipus, Jacosta, and Laius subsequently come true, they are shown to have no control over their destiny. All they have is the illusion of choice, which ironically contributes to their fates. On the other hand, the damned people in hell in Inferno have had the chance to refrain from crimes and redeem their souls during their earthly life but chose not to do so. Their damnation is the result of the choices they make. While there are instances when Dante alludes to the role of fortune in plotting the destiny of people, the chance to choose between heaven or hell while still alive demonstrates the existence of free will in man.

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