Destiny, Free Will and Choice - The Power of Fate in Oedipus the King Essay

Destiny, Free Will and Choice - The Power of Fate in Oedipus the King Essay

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The Power of Fate in Oedipus the King


The concept of fate has existed since the time of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed very strongly in fate, which can be defined as either a power beyond human control that determines events, or the outcome or end. In "Oedipus Rex," King Oedipus lives and dies by fate. Fate influences the entire plot, thereby allowing for some interesting developments that may be unpredictable to the audience.

In Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex", fate truly is a huge factor in many scenes and events.  According to ancient Greek belief, the word of God was fate, and fate was the word of God.  Therefore, every event that ever happened was predetermined and unchangeable.  Oedipus himself has been completely victimized by fate.  In the beginning of the play, he was "fated" to kill his father and marry his own mother and conceive children with her.  Since it was the word of Apollo, the god, to the Greeks it meant that it was unchangeable.  Oedipus escaped Corinth, the supposed city of his birth, and ran far away.  He happened upon an old man in the crossroads-a fated event.  Though he did not know it at the time, when he killed the man, it turned out to be his own father-a prophecy he was destined by fate to fulfill (Elsom, 85).

"The heralds no sooner reported Laius dead than you appeared and they hailed you king of Thebes."  (Sophocles, 187).  Soon after he unwittingly killed his father, Oedipus happened upon a creature called the Sphinx, who posed a riddle for him.  Though none of the other great minds in the entire world could do this, Oedipus answered her riddle and destroyed her, freeing Thebes.  Thus he subsequently became king of Thebes.  What a fated chain of events! (Elsom, 86).

Oedipus was ...


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...s the word of God himself, many ironic events occurred due to the twists of fate.  Sophocles masterfully weaves pieces of a legend together to create a dramatic tale of fate and irony called "Oedipus Rex".

Works Cited and Consulted:

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Elsom, John.  "Fate and the Imperial Dream."  World & I.  February 2000.  82-90.

Ehrenberg, Victor. "Fate and Sophoclean Rulers." In Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex, edited by Michael J. O'Brien. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. NY: Penguin, 1984.

Yaeger, Werner. "Sophocles' Master of Fate." In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.

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