Essay on Free Will in Sophocles' Play, Oedipus the King

Essay on Free Will in Sophocles' Play, Oedipus the King

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In Sophocles' play Oedipus the King, the roles of free will and destiny in human life come into question, and it seems that Sophocles took a direct standpoint on the answer. One interpretation of the play provides the notion that Sophocles was pointing out to his fellow Greeks the reality of human free will.

The question arises throughout the episodes of the play: Is it fate or autonomic decision-making that determines the course of events in the life of Oedipus? To the Greeks, one aspect of this argument was the idea that the character of an individual greatly affected his or her fate in life. The character of each individual has certain positive and negative attributes that affect the choices that he or she makes.

For Oedipus, one of the attributes that affected his ultimate destination in life was his intense desire for knowledge and truth. One of the driving forces in the play is Oedipus' desperate attempt to find out the truth of his origin. He pushes Tiresias, Creon, Jocasta, the oracle, the messenger, and the shepherd for information regarding his beginnings. Each of these characters refuses to give him a straight answer at the very least. Even as he draws nearer to the answer, and the others have long-since put the pieces together, Oedipus pushes beyond the comfort levels for the answer. He says, "I can't stop now. Not with all my birth clues in my hands," (59). The desire for truth, so deeply rooted in his honest character, pushed him to continue his search, ultimately leading to his downfall. He had the capability to discontinue the plight, however, and made the independent decision to continue.

Other instances in which Oedipus made choices directly linking himself into the prophecy were at the points in w...


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...ssence, Jocasta and Laius were indirectly responsible for their own deaths, and Oedipus was responsible for his ruin. Oedipus even seems to admit his responsibility when he says, "What title of sincerity and trust when all my past behavior's proved so wrong," (75). In each of the aforementioned examples - in the character attributes that led to individual choices and in the natural autonomous choices made by the characters - it becomes obvious that the events of the play were not predetermined at all. Instead, with a close reading of the text, one can take the interpretation that the choices made by the characters were independently made by each individual.

With the Oedipus the King text, Sophocles seemingly made it clear to his fellow Greeks that humankind has the ability, even with prophecies, to make choices free from the influence of divine forces.

 

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