The Fate of King Oedipus
In “King Oedipus” there comes a point in the play where Oedipus
learns something that plays an important role throughout the play.He learns
from a oracle that he will eventually kill his own Father and sleep with his
own mother. As one could imagine this is a shock to Oedipus, and he does
not believe the oracle. However, he cannot control any of this from
happening because it is his fate. He is a victim of circumstances beyond his
control. Oedipus has no control on the outcome of what happens in his life
because his life had already been planned by the Greek Gods.
Throughout the whole play there are references made to many of the
ancient Greek Gods, for example, Apollo, Zeus, Dionysis, and Artemis are
discussed quite often. In ancient Greece the people believed that if anything
happened one of the god’s had a reason for it. Each god was related to one
specific thing like Poseidon being the god of the sea. They thought that if
there was a tidal wave or a hurricane it was because Poseidon was angry at
them. This is the basis for my assumption that Oedipus had no control over
First of all, when Oedipus is just a baby his father, King Laius of
Thebes, is told in an oracle that his own son will kill him. So, with the
agreement of his wife, Jocasta, the baby’s feet are pinioned, and it’s given to a
slave who is supposed to leave it to die on Mt. Cithaeron. However, the
slave feels sorry for the baby, and gives it to a fellow shepherd from Corinth.
The shepherd from Corinth presented the baby to the childless King of
Corinth, who is Polybus, and he brings him up as his own. He gives him the
name Oedipus, which means swollen foot, because of his deformity.
This shows how the god’s had already intended for his life to be. He
had no way to control what his parents did to him after he was born. Then,
eighteen years later, he leaves Corinth for Delphi, to check on his parentage
at the oracle of Apollo. The oracle, though, gives him a horrific prediction.
Which is that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother, which are the
two most inconceivable crime in a Greek family. After hearing this he flees
Corinth and heads toward Thebes believing to of left his father behind in case
the oracle was right.
However, the god Apollo has somewhat tricked him. Since he believes
that his real father is Polybus, but he does not yet know that his father is the
King of Thebes, which is where he is going. Along the way he meets an old
man driving a wagon of slaves at a place where three roads meet, and he then
precedes to kill him.
Years pass after this incident, during which time he becomes King of
Thebes, marries Jocasta (his mother), and fathers four children by her.
Slowly, Thebes becomes engulfed by a horrific plague, which kills animals,
children, and crops. Oedipus, being the brave king he is, promises to save his
city. Since plagues are caused by pollution, and the pollution is caused by
sins the gods are the only one’s who can reveal it’s cause. Oedipus sends his
brother-in-law, Creon, to see the oracle at Delphi again, and the god’s answer
is that the plague was caused due to an unpunished murderer. That being the
murderer of Laius. He then places a terrible curse on the murderer whomever
it is, and then looks for help from Teiresias, the respected prophet. She tells
him that he is the killer, and she hints at even worse crimes. Oedipus is
enraged at what she tells him, and thinks that Teiresias and Creon have made
this up to dethrone him. Teiresias departs with threats of her life while Creon
begs his innocence. Oedipus does not believe him, and would have had him
executed if not for Jocasta.
After hearing that the argument was the result of what an oracle had
told them she reassures Oedipus by saying that what the oracles say is
nonsense. She then tells a story of how her and Laius were told by one that
their son would kill his father. She then tells him how the father was killed by
robbers at a place where three roads meet. Then Oedipus remembers that he
killed a man at a place like this and wonders if it was Laius. He realizes that
this would make him the cursed murderer who is to blame for the plague of
Thebes. Jocasta pleads with Oedipus that a witness said it was thieves, and
that it could not have been him. Oedipus wants this witness to be found so
that his fears can be laid to rest. During this time a messenger arrives to tell
Oedipus that his father, the King of Corinth, has died and that he is now the
King of Corinth as well.
Oedipus is saddened by this event, but tells the messenger that he
cannot return to Corinth while his mother is still alive. Then the messenger
tries to help himself out by telling Oedipus that she was not really his mother,
nor was Polybus his father. He then explains to them that Oedipus was given
to him by a shepherd from Thebes. Jocasta then realizes that Oedipus is truly
her son and rushes away. Meanwhile Oedipus believes that she is
embarrassed that her husband might have been an unwanted child, and
perhaps he was the son of a slave.
At last the Theban shepherd arrives, and this is ironic because turned
out to be the man who was the witness to the murder of Laius. The shepherd
is reluctant to tell Oedipus anything. Not until after a threat of torture does he
tell Oedipus that the baby was given to him by Jocasta to be killed, and that
he passed it on to the Corinthian out of pity. Oedipus now knowing the truth
rushes to find Jocasta, but alas, it was to late. She had already hanged
herself. Oedipus then takes the shoulder pins from her dress and gouges his
eyes out with them blinding himself. From this misfortune Creon becomes
King, and after allowing Oedipus to say good-bye to his daughters, orders
him into the house, to await disposal at the god’s pleasure. As Oedipus enter
the house he is continually saying that he should be left to die on Mt.
Cithaeron just as the gods intended for him to.
As one can see, the god’s played with the lives and emotions of all the
characters in the play. While doing so Oedipus could in no way control his
own fate. The god’s mislead him, and did not allow him to keep from his
destiny. Oedipus was indeed a victim. A victim of circumstances beyond his
control, and it just goes to show that it is impossible for someone to escape
their own fate.