Sophia Takal

September 25, 2003

Mr. Woorden

Intro to Western Drama

Fate and the Limitations of Free Will

Socrates’ Oedipus Rex is heralded as the best tragedy of ancient Greece. Indeed, Oedipus Rex, was able to surpass human experiences while still appealing to the audience viewing it. By telling the story of Oedipus, a king, the viewer was able to connect with a human figure, while still placing him in a reverence similar to the veneration of Greek gods. The notion of a limited free will as a central theme of Oedipus Rex is demonstrated through the many successful prophesies throughout the play; the viewer is forced to realize that fate is unavoidable, despite tremendous efforts to deflect it.

        Before the play even begins, Oedipus attempts to escape his fate, only to fail miserably at each turn. His life begins with a prophecy; he was sent as a child to be killed in an effort to avoid the fate to which he eventually succumbs. At every turn of Oedipus’ life, the gods step in to make sure his fate is secured; when a human’s free will intervenes, the gods are right there to correct the mistake. Through Oedipus’ protracted journey towards an inevitable end, the ancient Greek viewer notes the impossibility of escaping one’s providence. Similarly to Iocasta and Laios unwillingness to accept the message from the gods and attempt to avoid the situation entirely, Oedipus tries to escape the prophecy delivered to him as a young adult. Unaware that by listening to the prophecy he is fulfilling it, he sets forth on a long travel into the unknown. The gods’ shrewdness is depicted by their willingness to utilize prophets as the harbinger of the future, while also exploiting them as a tool for expediting the result.

Join now!

S. Takal

On his journey, the first part of his fate is realized. Oedipus encounters Laios at a crossroads “where three highways meet” (ii.192) and murders him. In the middle of the play, Iocasta informs Oedipus that Laios was killed at this crossroads, an intersection that is referenced numerous times during the play. Oedipus speaks of his own realizations 

“There were three highways/Coming together at a place I passed;/And there a herald came towards me, and a chariot/Drawn by horses, with a man such as you describe/Seated in it.  The groom leading the horses/ forced me off the road at ...

This is a preview of the whole essay