Monday, January 25, 2021

"Irony" in Oedipus the King

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English 11

March 8,00

Victim of Fate

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The events in Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, show a relationship of mans free will existing within the cosmic order or fate. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held responsible for his own actions. Both the concept of fate and free will played an integral part in Oedipus destruction. Although he was a victim of fate, he was not controlled by it. Oedipus was destined from birth to someday marry his mother and to murder his father. This prophecy, as warned by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi was unconditional and would come to pass, no matter what he may have done to avoid it. His past actions were determined by fate, but what he did in Thebes, he did so of his own will.

When queen Jocasta found that she and king Laius were to have child, she went to consult an oracle for guidance. However, Teriresias had a devastating prophecy that their first-born son would kill the king his father, and marry his mother. In order to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, the king upon the birth of his son pierced the babys feet with an iron pin to prevent the baby from using his feet. The king ordered a shepherd to abandon the child in the mountains, to be left to die. The shepherd, in spite of his order from the king, gave the baby, instead, to one of his friends, a herdsman from Corinth. The herdsman gave the baby to his master, the king of Corinth. It was with this family that Oedipus grew up not knowing his real family or the fate that awaited him.

From the beginning of this tragedy, Oedipus took many actions leading to his own downfall. Oedipus could have waited for the plague to end, but out of compassion for his suffering people, he had Creon go to Delphi. When he learned of Apollos word, he could have calmly investigated the murder of the former King Laius, but in his hastiness, he passionately curses the murderer, and in so, unknowingly curses himself. "Upon the murderer I invoke this curse- whether he is one man and all unknown, or one of many- may he wear out his life in misery or doom! If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth, I pray that I myself may feel my curse." Oedipus unyielding desire to uncover the truth about Laius murder and the mystery surrounding his own birth, led him to the tragic realization of his horrific deeds. Teiresias, Jocasta and the herdsman tried to stop him from pursuing the truth. Take for example a part of the last conversation between Jocasta and Oedipus. After realizing that the prophecy had came true, Jacasta begs him to just let the mystery go unsolved for once. Oedipus replies, I will not be persuaded to let chance of finding out the whole thing clearly. He is unable to stop his quest for the truth, even under his wifes pleading. For it is in his own vain that he must solve the final riddle, the riddle of his own life.

Upon discovery of the truth of his birth from the herdsman, Oedipus cries, I who first saw the light bred of a match accursed, and accursed in my living with them, cursed in my killing. Oedipus knew that his fate had indeed come to pass and feels cursed by it. At the end of this tragic story, when Oedipus gouges out his eyes, the chorus asks him what god urged him to blind himself. Oedipus replied, It was Apollo, friends, Apollo, that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion. But was the hand that struck me was none but my own. He claimed full responsibility for his actions. Oedipus was guilty of killing his father and marrying his mother, but perhaps the true sin lay in his overzealous attempt to raise himself to the level of the gods by trying to escape his fate.

The fact that Oedpius motives for killing his father, Laius, and wedding his mother, Jocasta, it does not take away from the nature of the crimes. When he tears at his eyes with his Jocastas broach, Oedipus is accepting the full responsibilities for his acts and knew that he must be punished for his sins. The last act of destruction was caused by Oedipus free will, but his fate came about because of the nature of the cosmic order (that every sin must be punished) and role of the gods in human affairs.

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