Thursday, April 29, 2021

To what extent is Oedipus responsible for his own actions?

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Oedipus is responsible for his own actions of committing parrincest and for killing Laius, which led to his own downfall from being King of Thebes. This downfall is due to his rashness, over-curiosity, and his disrespect for the god's predictions. However, he is not fully responsible for his actions, as there are other factors accountable for his downfall that he had no control over. The all-knowing gods had predicted his patricide and incest long before he committed them, and it was his parents' actions which resulted in him not knowing who his true parents are and hence in him committing those sins unknowingly.

In "Oedipus the King", Oedipus' rashness evidently plays a part in bringing about his downfall, as Teriesias only reviews the truth when Oedipus rashly insults him and accuses him of plotting with Creon. Teriesias knew that Oedipus' fall from stature would result if he reveals the truth, and hence is reluctant to tell it. However, Oedipus quickly mistakes Teriesias' attempt to save him as one of ill and as an attempt to save himself. He then rashly accuses Teriesias of first being the murderer, then of plotting with Creon to overthrow him from his stature of King. Teriesias is a priest of a god, and a very respectable person in the land, and normal reasoning would have shown that the prophet would not do those things. This rashness is also clearly seen as Oedipus contradicts himself by at first praising Teriesias for his knowledge and wisdom, then moments later insulting that same knowledge and wisdom, and then calling him names. As a result of all these accusations, Teriesias is forced to defend himself by revealing the truth. Hence it is Oedipus' rashness which help bring about his own downfall.

Oedipus is always curious about the truth, and this curiosity also is a factor in his downfall. When he lived in Corinth, and when someone told him that he wasn't the son of the people he thought were his parents, it was his curiosity that brought him to the Temple of Delphi. There he heard the prophecy about his patricide and incest, which led him to run away, and hence later to fulfill the prophecy. Many people also tries to stop him from finding out the truth; first Teriesias, then Jocasta when she realises the truth, and the shepherd. However, he ignores their advice, and stubbornly continues in his attempt to solve the mystery. Even when he finds out that he might be the murderer of Laius, he still presses forward to find the truth, not caring about what the consequences might be. This curiosity, which is at first to find the murderer of Laius, then to find out about his parentage, causes the truth to reveal, and hence set in motion Oedipus' own downfall.

Furthermore, when Oedipus hears about the all-knowing god Apollo's prediction of his fate, he immediately tries to run away from it, which consequently cause the prediction to occur. Oedipus is also very relieved when he finds out that that the man who he thinks is his father had passed away, as he thinks that it means the prophecy is no long valid. These things clearly shows that Oedipus believes that Apollo's prophecies can be thwart, that they will not always happen as he thinks that he can change them. This shows his disrespect for the gods as he believes that they are not really all-knowing. It is this disrespect which brought him to Thebes, and this disrespect which made him try and prevent the prophecy, which ironically causes him to fulfill it and bring out his own downfall.

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Nevertheless, it must be taken into account that there are other factors that are also responsible for Oedipus' downfall. Long before Oedipus had committed the sins that brought about his downfall, the all-knowing god Apollo had predicted it, and it is the revealing of this prophecy to mortal ears which brings about the events which leads to Oedipus' downfall. The prediction was also a prediction of Oedipus' fate, and hence his downfall is the result of following his fate, which he cannot escape. It is also Apollo who brought about the plague and pestilence onto the land of Thebes, which cause Oedipus to fulfill his duty as King and try to stop it. This then forces Oedipus to find out about his sins, and results in his own fall from stature as King.

Oedipus also commits the "incestuous sins" because he did not know who his true parents are. Oedipus had run away from Corinth when he heard about the prophecy about him committing those sins. However, it is the fact that he does not know who his true parents are which causes him to in fact fulfill the prophecy by killing his father and marrying his mother. Therefore, Oedipus' downfall must also be attributed to his parents, as they had caused him to mistake his true parentage by trying to get rid of him.

In conclusion, Oedipus is in fact mostly responsible for his actions of patricide and incest because of his rashness, over-curiosity and disrespect for the gods, which results in his own downfall from stature of King. Nevertheless, there are also other factors that are responsible. The god's actions and his true parent's actions, over which he has no control over, are also causes to his actions. Therefore, Oedipus is not fully responsible for the actions that led to his downfall from position as King and his position in the eyes of men.

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