Theme Of Fate And Free Will In Oedipus The King

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Sophocles' Oedipus The King tells the story of Oedipus, destined from birth to kill his father and marry his mother. It was first performed in Athens in the year 429 BC (Mastin), at a time where law was strictly carried out and courts were conducted with a trial by jury. This strong view for carrying out justice is a theme in the play and is reflected in the form of Oedipus being charged with several crimes he has allegedly committed. Whether the reason for these punishments is justifiable or not is revealed through the analysis of Oedipus' actions and character flaws.

The first punishment Oedipus sustains is the loss of his wife and mother Jocasta. He finds her “hanged by the neck”, “held in a swinging cord” (Sophocles, 91) in her room.
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It is still debated whether it is Fate or Oedipus' actions which lead him to fulfil the prophecy. Perhaps in this case it is Fate which intervenes and causes Jacosta's death. The role Oedipus' character flaws play in the death of his wife, is that they are the reason for the murder of King Laius. It is due to his quick temper, stubbornness and hubris which make him refuse to stand aside and draw his sword against the guards. Although Oedipus killing king Laius may seem extreme to modern day viewers, his actions would not be seen as exaggerated by audiences in ancient greek times. They led violent lives and had the right to defend themselves when being attacked, especially in this circumstance where Oedipus was threatened by king Laius’ entourage of guards. Nonetheless, it is perhaps not justifiable for him to have killed the king and his guards, since he could have just stepped aside and let them pass. Since Oedipus killed king Laius, Jacosta's husband, perhaps the Gods or Fate decided it was only fair for Oedipus' wife to be taken away as punishment. On the other hand, committing suicide was Jacosta's choice; she was using her free will. In addition to this her death was never mentioned in the prophecy. Therefore it is possibly not Oedipus's character flaws and actions which lead to her death, which may mean that the punishment of losing his wife is …show more content…
Although Oedipus was prophesied to marry his mother and kill his father from birth and carries these out unknowingly, some say that the accumulation of his actions and character are seen as the cause for his fate. Their view underlines his character flaws and in the end makes Oedipus look guilty and to blame for the outcome of the play. Others however see Oedipus as a righteous man, a victim of Fate and the wrath of Gods. Yet it is through exploring the theme of Fate and Free will that Sophocles makes either view believable; that one can determine our fate just by our actions and by being who we are, or that our fate is predetermined beforehand and we have no say in our

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