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Oedipus is a victim of a tragic manipulation of the gods and Fates, and whose only flaw

is his arrogance and blindness.

The belief of fate and destiny govern people less now, than before. The modernity of
today decreased our belief that events are beyond our control, and that individuals are free
creatures that is capable of reason and choice. However, one must not deny the existence of that
something, higher than that of an individual. That not all mans decisions, his success and his
failure can b attributed to him and himself only.

Gods and Fate in Greek Play

Fate is a reality, an unappeasable decision from the gods, or so the Greeks ancient culture
and customs show. Their acceptance of power and divine being along with the belief of an
undeniable destiny determined by the gods has decisively governed their lives, culture, and the
Greeks as we know today (Higgins and Higgins 2011). This dominant belief is evident in the
portrayal of man and nature in Greek plays; man as a creature birthed by the gods and molded by
their divine will, an authority that is never to be denied, or escaped from.
The Greek theater is seen as an extension of an altar, a religious festivity that worships
deities. The stage allows for a closeness to the deities they worship, an opportunity for the
attendants to relate to the divine power they believe in. (Higgins and Higgins 2011).

The Manipulation of the Kings Fate

Sophocles Oedipus Rex shows another variation of the fragilities of man and the reality of
destiny or fate. Sophocles Oedipus Rex has illustrated the undeniable power of divine will, that
humans, even the great King Oedipus is powerless against the gods.

This is shown when the young Oedipus left his foster

parents upon knowing the fate he has of him murdering his
father, who at that time he thought was Polybos. However,
because of the failure of his parents in informing him that he
was their foster, he unknowingly killed Laios during his travel and
then on committed incest by taking his mother as his wife. He tried
to escape his prophesy during his youth, yet all his decisions were
in accordance to the writings of the gods.

Oedipus was at fault, if it

(fig 1) Oedipus Rex

Art by: rezurekted

Can one really say that

was evident that fate has

predicted every decisions and consequences he encounters? Fig 1, an art by rezurekted (2009)
shows an illustration of Oedipus and his inability to determine his destiny. The blindness shows
the weakness man has, and the darkness and light portray a higher being that shadows man.
TEIRESIAS: What does it matter!
Whether I speak or not, it is bound to come.
OEDIPUS: Then, if "it'' is bound to come, you are bound to tell me.
TEIRESIAS: No, I will not go on. Rage as you please (341-347)

The verse above further illustrates the power of fate, and that the prophets only role is to
see. Thus, fate cannot be change even with the insistence of Oedipus to know destiny. Truth, as
eluded by Teiresias is nothing but facts and inevitability.
Another evidence of the power of fate that played the family of Oedipus is the proof
Jocasta has divulge to Oedipus when she was denying the accuracy of prophecies. The king was
bound to be killed by his son, but was instead killed by highwaymen (Sophocles 707-725). But
unknown to Jocasta, the highwaymen was truly her son.

Oedipus was a willful man; he denies the workings of fate at the power of divinity,
insisting instead the ability of man to escape fate.
Oedipus tragedy: the arrogant King
Oedipus is but a mechanism for Sophocles to illustrate the weakness of the man. In Greek
plays, man is seen to carry out the will of the Gods, from their birth until they finish the journey
they are meant to do. However, it is at this point that the human character and its flaws are
presented to the audience. Oedipus is shown as a brilliant king, as men and women in their land
hail him for ridding the land of the Sphinx through a show of intelligence, thus he was king to the
people of Thebes. However, the king showed classic human flaws; his arrogance and blindness.
Oedipus is shown as an impressive king, exalted by many and is considered a hero of his
people. This is denoted from the priest exaltation of Oedipus as the greatest of all men
(Sophocles 46). His arrogance however have prevented him to see the inevitability of his fate, for
he is resolved that he has not done harm to the whole land, despite what the prophet said, and
even become enraged with the prophets words
TEIRESIAS: I say that you are the murderer whom you seek.
OEDIPUS:Now twice you have spat out infamy. You'll pay for it!
TEIRESIAS:Would you care for morel Do you wish to he really angry?
OEDIPUS:Say what you will, Whatever you say is worthless.
TEIRESIAS: I say you live in hideous shame with those
Most dear to you. You can not see the evil.
OEDIPUS: It seems you can go on mouthing like this for ever.
TEIRESIAS: I can, if there is power in truth.
OEDIPUS: There is:
But not for you, not for you,
You sightless, witless, senseless, mad old man! (415-425)

The text shows Oedipus; arrogance against the prophets words. He translated it as a
slander, an insult to his position as king, a threat to his position and power. He had wanted to
pursue the killer of the former king, not to restore peace and prosperity to his land, but to further
build up the glory he has acquired. He has himself believing that his intelligence and knowledge,

that attributed to the feat he has accomplished in driving away the Sphinx through answering the
riddle that many found hard, would then again be the same answer to the challenge that befell
their land. However the prophet has alluded that the result was the opposite.
TEIRESIAS: You were a great man once at solving riddles.
OEDIPUS: Mock me with that if you like; You will find it true.
TEIRESIAS: It was true enough. It brought about your ruin. (512-514)

Oedipus seems confident that he alone can find out the killer of King Lauis. His rashness
to condemn, ironically himself, and his confidence of his intelligence made him ignore the
writings of the gods. He arrogantly took matters in his own hands, believing himself capable of
being a great king and hero without the help from the gods.

This blindness this author is referring to is not the

blindness cause by Oedipus to himself, rather it is the
blindness attributed to human frailty. Blindness caused
by not seeing the events beholding the future, a blind
spot or a humans inability to see what is not in front of
him. This can also be understood as Oedipus denial of
his fate, his endeavors to escape the writings of the
gods, and the lack of wisdom and understanding that
man cannot be more powerful than the gods.
Art By: yrlynn

Some of his blindness however is deliberate, as

postulate earlier in this text. His deliberate about face of
his history and the denial of his real belief on prophesies.

The young Oedipus ran away from his foster father, after hearing the prophesy of murder, but an

evident turn about on Oedipus view on prophesy was seen when the blind prophet was revealing
the prophecy.
It is then important to establish the extent of Oedipus crimes. This author takes on the
view of Aristotles hamartia, or a wrongdoing done without malice or wickedness (Dodds 1968
as cited by Haugen 2004). The murder then of Oedipus father and the incest with his mother
should be understood not as a crime, but ignorance on Oedipus part. However his flaws, his
overbearing pride, gave way to the fulfillment of the prophesy (Haugen 2004).
Significantly, the journey of the man becomes a cathartic point to the theater, where
audience can experience transcendence, bringing forth the consciousness to the truth of man and
nature (Higgins and Higgins 2011). Sophocles reduce King Oedipus to a human being,
powerless in the face of the gods and his destiny.

The Blinding of the King

Oedipus blinding himself after knowing the

horrible truth was an act of surrender to the power of
the gods.
Through his eyes, he tried to escape his fate,
but through his blindness, he now only sees the truth,
same as what the blind prophet is. The truth of the fate
he tried so hard to run away from. The blindness was a
reversal of his inability to see with his own eyes the power of the gods. Thus the truth is shared
by the gods not through his eyes, but through his blindness. Blindness is seen in reality as a great
impediment, a very unfortunate weakness. However, it is the blind that has a greater perception,

lesser judgment of what is seen in face-value, higher sensitivity than those who can see with the
Perhaps then, the greatest tragedy in the
play, is not
the fate of
Oedipus, his

Oedipus Part Two

Art by: larissah

murder and
incestuous acts, rather it was tragedy of knowing
the truth. That most of the time, reality is a harsher
story for all man. That truth is complicated and
Photography by:

painful; it could either be your warden or your

salvation. Nevertheless, the play is an understanding of
an existence of a web of life that connects each man

and woman, and that every pull of the string makes man dance to the tune of the Fate marionette.


Haugen, P. (2004). Hamartia and Hubris in the Story of Oedipus. LCMND E-JOURNAL,2003/4.
Retrieved from http://www.umanitoba.ca/linguistic_circle/e_journal/v2003_4.html

Higgins, C., & Higgins, R. (2004). CliffsNotes Oedipus trilogy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub.

Fitts, D., & Fitzgerald, R. (1939). The Antigone of Sophocles; an English version by Dudley Fitts
and Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Harcourt, Brace and company.

Oedipus Rex
Art by: rezurekted
Art By: yrlynn
Oedipus Part Two
Art by: larissah
Photography by: MichelleRamsay


(A position paper on Oedipus Rex)


Michaela Angelica M. Paragas

University of the Philippines Los Banos

Humanities V First Semester 14-15