The story of Oedipus
The story of Oedipus is a true Greek tragedy in that the main character, Oedipus, rises to power in the city of Thebes only to be told of a prophecy saying he, although unknowingly, committed fratricide and his wife, Jocasta, is his biological mother. When all of this information gets to Oedipus he is rightfully shocked, but his mother/wife commits suicide and with her pin, Oedipus blinds himself. Oedipus is the framework of a tragic Greek character because he has redeeming qualities such as his ability to think, like when dealing with the Sphinx, he has issues with keeping his pride in check due to his own intelligence and stubbornness.
Ultimately, what makes Oedipus such a tragic character is that he wanted no part in his prophecy but he was doomed to fail from the start. We can see that the theme of Oedipus was about self-knowledge, and how well he could handle the truth and what he could do with the information.
To truly understand what makes Oedipus’ story tragic we must look into the element that holds the most relevance throughout the story; Oedipus’ prophecy. The prophecy was made to Oedipus’ father, King Laius, that his child would eventually kill him so he sought to get rid of his son in hopes of avoiding this prophecy. This becomes a trend with Oedipus as well as he also gets the same prophecy from an oracle; because of this prophecy, Oedipus leaves Corinth and heads towards Thebes, where his real parents were. Both of these men’s undoing is their blind belief that they can escape prophecy or change fate. This ignorance is juxtaposed by Oedipus’ intelligence, especially when solving the Sphinx’s riddle to become the king of Thebes. Oedipus is a smart man, but by trying to fight fate and running from the truth he only succeeded in accomplishing the prophecy. The true tragedy of Oedipus is that despite all of his intelligence and quick thinking, he denied the truth of which he was, he ran away from home in hopes of not being part of his own prophecy and ended up a blind man wandering the world due to his own foolishness.
Oedipus is not the only one to blame for his fate. All this happened because Oedipus’s parents’ choice to abandon him because of a prophecy. If they had taken care of him from a young age and told him what the prophecy said when he reached adulthood, then none of what happened to Oedipus would have happened. Oedipus would have been the next king in line, and the prophecy would not have come true. The man Oedipus ran to at the dance was also to blame. If he wasn’t drunk, then he would have not said all those mean things to Oedipus and he would have never mentioned the fact that the parents Oedipus think he had was never his real parents. Oedipus would have never gone out to seek the truth to prove that man wrong. Oedipus would have never run away and killed his father on the road.
What makes Oedipus a true tragedy? Oedipus had a sudden reversal of fortune and a change in circumstances. This was when the Messenger shows up from Corinth. The man tries to ease the King’s mind by telling him that he’s not really king Polybos’ son. This ends up driving Oedipus toward his horrible fate. Then there was a moment when Oedipus recognizes his true identity and discovers his own situation. In Oedipus the King this was when the testimonies of the Messenger and the Theban Shepherd make Oedipus realize that he fulfilled the prophecy that he’s tried to avoid so bad unwilling. Then later there was a catastrophe which caused great and sudden damage and suffering to Oedipus and his family. When he found out he murdered his father and married his mother, which leads him to stabbing his eyes out and his mother and wife hanging herself.
The story of Oedipus is a tragedy of a man who is ruined by forces he could not run from or he could not have been expected to have understood, which makes Oedipus not responsible for his misery in any way. He was more of a puppet of his own life, and his fate was meant to be a tragedy. In Oedipus, you can see that what Oedipus wasn’t just running from his fate but he wanted his free will to do as he, please. Oedipus is innocent in his own story, and because of that free will to run away from it and not confront his parents; he runs into his tragic fate and murdered and married his mother. Oedipus intentions towards his parents were good; we see that he wasn’t into killing his parents, but his actions towards avoiding it were bad. He also didn’t have all the truth before running away. If he knew that the parents he was with weren’t his real parents than I don’t think he would have run away, because he would have realized that he’s not with his actual parents, so the prophesy would have never came true.
During the time when Sophocles wrote Oedipus the king, we see that they believed so much in gods, and how humans were placed on earth to do as commanded by the gods. We see that they have no free will to do say they want but rather to obey the gods. With this, we can see that during the Ancient Greek time period they don’t have the will to do anything they want like we do in this time period. If Oedipus was during this time period and all those tragedies happened to him, then we can say he had his free will to no fulfill the Prophesy, but the choice to do it anyways. That wouldn’t consider him a tragic story, but we see ancient Greek gods were in control of the people and what fate is set for someone they cannot change. For Oedipus to be responsible for what he did; we would have to identify what the ancient Greek mean by responsible. The word means to act accordingly to one’s own wishes, and having control over. Which he couldn’t do because his fate was already set, and when he tried to fight it by running the run straight into his fate unable to escape from it. This proves that Oedipus wasn’t responsible for his fate, and had no control over it making him a tragedy.
Greek mythology believed in gods and believed that things that happened were not in the natural will, but it was the intentions of the gods, and they do say they please. We could say his destiny chooses him, and there were divine powers from the gods in it. For him to be at the ball and find out that he wasn’t who he thought he was. To me, there were supernatural powers involved. Why did it have to be at that moment he finds out? Also at the moment, he was running away. He runs in the direction of his father, and why was his father on the road? How could he have killed his father’s guards and his father without any injuries? All this is the power of the gods with no free will for Oedipus to run away from his tragic. If he had found out that his adopted parent was not the parent he should have ran from then I believe things would have been different for Oedipus. He would have never killed his father and marry his mother. Oedipus faced the issues of justice and morality, innocence, guilt, and criminal intent. All the things he was trying to fight; he ended up doing against his will. This makes Oedipus a Tragedy.
There were elements in Oedipus that appear in a story and have a deeper meaning than what appears to be. The first symbol that appears in the plot was eyes. This symbol was introduced when Tiresias, a blind prophet, was trying to explain to Oedipus that Oedipus himself was actually the one who killed King Laius who was his father. Oedipus refuses to believe what Tiresias was saying or see the evidence right in front of him; instead, he tries to blame the murder on someone else. This makes Oedipus blind to the truth. A Tiresias end up telling Oedipus that not only is he the murderer, but he will end up physically blind once he finally accepts the truth.
This comes true. The Second symbol that appears in the plot was his foot. The name Oedipus is swollen foot, which happens to Oedipus when king Laius his father pins his ankles together as an infant. The scars on his ankles make him different from others, making his fate different than others. The injury symbolizes Oedipus being limited and controlled by the prophecy. His control to the prophecy means he cannot run away his fate. The last symbol that appears in the plot was the crossroads. Crossroads symbolized a huge decision for Oedipus where each path would lead him to a different outcome. At the crossroads in the story, Oedipus was faced with a decision of whether to kill or obey king Laius and move out the way for him. Which he chooses to kill King Laius. Making his fate sealed. The crossroads symbolize fate and the power of prophecy rather than freedom/choice.
During my research, I found out that all the tragedy that was in Oedipus’s family or what happened to Oedipus was by King Laius. King Laius was said to have tutored the son of a king. It was said that eternal suffering was cast on all future blood relations to King Laius meaning Oedipus is son and grandsons, and it happened. Oedipus after wondered the earth till he died. The suffering didn’t just stop with Oedipus. It went on to his children. Eteocles and Polynices, decided to share the kingdom, each taking one-year to rule. Which Eteocles refused to step down from his throne after his year as king.
Polynices was mad and brought in an army to fight Eteocles from his position. At the end of the war the brothers killed each other. Which Jocasta’s brother, Creon, took over the throne. He decided that Polynices was a traitor, and should not be given burial rites. Antigone didn’t like it and attempted to bury her brother. Creon found out and had Antigone buried in a rock cavern for defying him, where has she hanged herself as soon as she was put in the cave, and Creon son, Haemon was hiding in the cave ahead of time, trying to free her and then to run away with Antigone and live happily ever after. Which Antigone did not know about. When Haemon discovers Antigone’s dead body; he was unhappy, and he commits suicide too. This shows that the curse upon Oedipus family didn’t just end with him but also with his children. Each one of them dies in a cruel way. Oedipus wasn’t the only one affected by the tragedy and proving that the fate of Oedipus and his family were sealed from the very beginning, which they could not run away from.
To conclude this essay, what makes Oedipus such a tragic character is that he wanted no part in his prophecy, but he was doomed to fail from the start, beginning with his injury in his foot, to the crossroad, and to the blindness of his eyes. Oedipus was a smart man, who tried fighting fate and running from the truth.
He tried to run from who he thought he was because he was afraid to hurt is parent only to run into who he was meant to be from the very beginning, and fulfill his purpose against his will by killing his real father and marrying his mother, and I believed if King Laius and his wife jocasta had loved Laius and never tried to kill him, but they let Oedipus live with them till the point where he is responsible enough to understand things. That’s when they should have talked to him about the prophecy, and I’m pretty sure Oedipus would have never killed his father and married his mother. That to me is why I picked Oedipus the king has a true Greek tragedy story that had no will over his own life.
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