Sophocles Plays The classical Greek writers have given the world major literary themes. One such theme is “Fate”. According to Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language the word fate is defined as “the principal or determining cause or will by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do: destiny”(529). The Theme “Fate” is applicable to Oedipus and his lineage, in Sophecless three Theban plays: Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus. “Fate” plays a cruel role in the lives of everyone related to Oedipus.
Not only was Oedipus’s life condemned from the beginning, but the lives of his four children were also ill fated. The entire bloodline, beginning with Oedipus, met a tragic end or led a tragic life through no fault of their own. Thomas Gould explains, “sometimes it is suggested that Oedipus would not have avoided his misery by having been a better man, but he could have remained prosperous and happy if he had been a less good man” (Gould 51). If not for “Fate”, the lives of Oedipus and his entire family could have been much better off. The whole debacle started with the birth of Oedipus. Oedipus was the only child of Laius and Jocasta, king and queen of Thebes.
They took Oedipus to the oracle at Delphi to have his prophecy read. The oracle prophesized that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, “.. Why, Loxias declared that I should one day marry my own mother, And with my own hands shed my father’s blood. Wherefore Corinth I have kept away far, for long years; and prospered; none the less it is most sweet to see one’s parents’ face..”(ll. 556-559, 187). In order to prevent this from happening, Laius and Jocasta pierced Oedipus’s foot and ordered a shepherd to abandon him on a mountainside.
The shepherd pitied the child and gave him to a herdsman from Corinth. The herdsman then gave the child to Polybus and Merope, the childless king and queen of Corinth. They adopted him and raised him as their own. Oedipus grew up thinking he was the prince of Corinth. He heard rumors that he was not the natural son of Polybus and Merope, and he went to consult the oracle of Delphi to find the truth. The oracle repeated the same prophecy that was told to Laius and Jocasta. Thinking that Polybus and Merope were his parents, “Oedipus moves away when he is told his fate” (Jones 41). “Fate” then stepped in and Oedipus met an old man accompanied by several servants at a crossroads.
The old man was Laius, on his way to Delphi. Since both men were proud, they refused to step aside so the other could pass. Oedipus lost his temper and in a rage he killed them all, except for one servant who escaped, .. I found myself upon the self-same spot where, you say, the king perished .. When in my travels I was come near this place where three roads meet, there met me a herald, and a man that rode in a colt-carriage ..
And the old man himself, would thrust me, I, being enraged, strike him who jostled me– The driver– and the old man .. He paid though! duly I am not; but in brief, smitten by the staff in this right hand of mine .. out of the carriage straight he rolls down headlong; and I slay them all..(ll. 1104- 1112, 217). When Oedipus kills his father, Laius, “it is not out of hatred of his parents” (Vernant 110). Oedipus has no idea who the “stranger” is.
All Oedipus realizes is that he has his life in danger. Fate is what has Oedipus murder his father. Not realizing that he had fulfilled half of his terrible prophecy, Oedipus continued on his way to Thebes. When he arrived at Thebes there was a widespread plague in the city. In order to free the city of this plague one had to solve the riddle that came with it, the riddle of the Sphinx.
Oedipus was clever enough to solve the riddle, which in turn cured the city of the plague. After answering the Sphinx’s riddle and ridding Thebes of the monster, Oedipus was considered a hero. When the people learned of Laius’ death, believed to be the fault of bandits, they made Oedipus their new king. In the imperial palace there was Jocasta, a recent widow of the missing King Laius. As it was accustomed, Oedipus married the widow Jocasta.
The city was happy with their king for the next years, Jocasta and Oedipus eventually had four children: Eteocles, Polynices, Ismene, and Antigone. This fulfilled the other half of his horrible fate. Then, another dark cloud came over Thebes. There was another plague infecting the city. An Oracle was contacted and the way to solve this riddle was to banish the killer of the former king Laius from the city. Oedipus in the process of solving the riddle found out that Jocasta was in fact is real mother “But she, perhaps ..
I have her for mother..” (l. 1383, 236). Eventually Oedipus learned of what he had done was consumed by despair. After finding Jocasta hanging from the ceiling, Oedipus shouted that he could no longer bear to see his shame and gouged out his eyes with the brooches on Jocasta’s dress. Oedipus was eventually banished from the city of Thebes, and wandered around Greece, unaccepted because of the curse that was thought to be on him. In time Oedipus made his way to Colonus.
He requested to see the king, Theseus. It is revealed to Oedipus by Ismene that a new prophecy has been told. The city that possesses the grave of Oedipus will receive continued good fortunes. She then warns that Creon knows of the prophecy and will try to force Oedipus back to Thebes. Theseus then enters and treats Oedipus respectfully.
He agrees to protect Oedipus from Creon and allow him to live in Colonus until his death. Oedipus promises that Athens will be rewarded. Fate again interrupted Oedipus’s life at this juncture. After living a life full of suffering he decided to rest in a grove of trees. It just so happened that the grove was a sacred place for the city of Colonus. Oedipus then met with Theseus and was allowed to stay in Colonus in peace.
He was not there long but at least he died with a small degree of honor. Unfortunately, f …