At first, Oedipus seems to be a self-assured, courageous hero. This is particularly true during the situation referred to at the beginning of the drama, when he answers the Sphinx's riddle. Although Oedipus is not a native Thebans, he still elects to answer the riddle of the Sphinx in spite of the peril of death to anyone who fails to answer suitably. Only a man like Oedipus, a man having incredible self-confidence, could display such bravery. When Oedipus succeeds, releasing the city from the Sphinx's evil rule, he becomes instantly renowned and recognized for his courageousness and intellect. A temple priest shows the esteem the Thebans have for their sovereign when he tells Oedipus, "You freed us from the Sphinx, you came to Thebes and cut us loose from the bloody tribute we had paid that harsh, brutal singer. We taught you nothing, no skill, no extra knowledge, still you triumphed" (44-47). Here, Oedipus' daring deeds seem to be a blessing, a gift from the gods to benefit the city. Certainly Oedipus is revered by the Thebans, yet at times he appears to hate the gods, assuming power that normally belongs to them. One sample is he arrogantly tells the Chorus, which beseeches the gods for liberation from the city plague, "You pra...
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... as growingly independent of the gods. They examined whether their lives were results of fate or free will. Though Jocasta originally considers that fate, oracles and prophecies, means nothing, she later adjusts her ideas when she grasps that her divine prophecy has come true. Oedipus, the embodiment of human intelligence, also contests the gods; yet by the play's close it is clear that the gods have prevailed. In this way, Sophocles stresses that the gods are greater than man, that there's a boundary to human aptitude and reason.
Lastly, Oedipus the King attends to enlighten us on the causes of human suffering. Though Oedipus' fate is decided, the reader still feels compassion for the tragic hero, trusting that somehow he doesn't merit what eventually befalls him. Here, Sophocles accredits, at least somewhat, human suffering to the simple will of the gods.
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