At one time in our lives there is a moment that we may think of ourselves as better than someone or something else. There may also be a point when making a decision leads to a great error in judgment. In the play Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, both of these characteristics can be seen in the main character. These characteristics are known as tragic flaws. These flaws are known as hubris meaning excess pride, leading to overconfidence, and hamartia meaning errors and weakness in judgment. Both of these characteristics are the main reason of destruction and downfall in mankind and the tragic hero in this play. The tragic hero is unable to escape his misfortune that is destined to happen. There are many more tragic flaws other than these two that also contribute to the falling of the hero. The destruction and downfall can be seen as fate. Even though the hero chooses his own actions, the resulting consequences that come about are ones that are unable to be changed. As seen, no one is able to outrun his or her own fate.
Destiny, Fate, Free Will and Free Choice in Oedipus the King – Driven by Fate
The Role of Fate in Oedipus Rex
Before we approach this complex question inductively, we are at first obliged to contemplate what definitions and assumptions are being made. This essay, perhaps more so than others, requires a more extensive look at this aspect of the question, because of the sheer variety of possible responses. However, I now have reduced them to three possibilities. Firstly, we could make the assumption that perhaps as destiny controls all fates, then Oedipus’ character was created long before he was conceived. On the other hand, we could also say that perhaps Oedipus’ horrific fate came about because of his character and fate. The final possibility is that everything is inevitable – therefore no one ever has had any say in their own fate, let alone Oedipus. In this essay I would like to discuss these three ideas, and perhaps draw a conclusion at the end on which I feel to be the most valid.
The first solution to this question, as I said earlier, is the idea that destiny makes character. As destiny supposedly in the Greek mindset maps out all events before they occur, we can today assume with this logic that perhaps the components that “built” Oedipus’ character were caused by fate. We know today that character is determined by biological factors and experience. These biological factors would have been determined by how well he was fed, how well he developed, his genes etcetera. The experience would have also been determined by the pre-destined master plan of Fate. Thus it is possible to argue that Oedipus, as components of his character and mind, was entirely shaped by fate and therefore cannot be held responsible for what he has done, as he has no control over his actions.
But the premises that th…
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…e dealt with in a normal way. This is theatre. It has been crafted to look as though the fall is due to some error of action, strongly interlaced with fate. Yet despite all this, I do not feel that this is how the play has materialised. It seems to me as though Oedipus could not have stopped the actual horrific incest and patricide occurring, only the realisation of it. To me, as a non-believer in fate, nothing is due to Oedipus’ character. He seems merely unfortunate, a victim of superstition. Yet to those of you who accept fate, then perhaps this could be the explanation. It is a completely subjective decision, based on a personal interpretation. This is something that I cannot decide. Thus I leave the decision open, but my decision closed. Neither is right, and neither is wrong.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991.