Oedipus The King: Fate and Free Will

Oedipus The King: Fate and Free Will

Oedipus The King: Fate and Free Will

Oedipus The King: Fate and Free Will

  • Research Paper
  • SubjectEnglish Literature
  • Number of pages5
  • Writer levelUniversity
  • Format of citationMLA
  • Number of cited resources10

Note: _. You must write your paper in MLA format. _. You must give adequate examples to support your arguments. _. You must cite at least 10 academic sources for your research material. _. No more than two sources in one page, and no one source material should run over 2 lines within the same page. –. Research sources must be documented in the works cited page at the end of the paper.

Fate, in ancient Greek was a rudimental part of daily life. Every aspect of life depended on it. In Oedipus the King by Sophocles, the theme of fate and free will is strongly shown. It is the same theme that brought about Oedipus death. In the play, fate and free will determines Oedipus daily life and destiny. In this article, we are going to discuss how the theme of fate and free will has been expressed.

The Greeks believed that the personality of a person greatly affected how they lived and related to each other. Their personality determined their self will all the same. A man who is wise would make good decisions that would affect his life positively while a stubborn one would make choices that would lead him to destruction. The character traits of an individual have impacts, both positive and negative, on their lives. They effect the choices they make in their doings. For Oedipus, one such attributes lead him to have a desire for knowledge and truth. It leads him to the truth of his origin (Hall, page90). The driving force within him ties with his own aspect of free-will.

From the events in the Oedipus the king, there is evidence of an underlying relationship of humans free will available in the order or fate in which the Greeks hade a belief they guided the universe in a purpose of harmony. Humans were free to choose and be responsible of their own deeds. The idea of fate and free of will held an important part in the king’s destruction. He was not led by fate. All the way from the time he was born he was destined to someday do things like marry his mother and to kill his father. The oracle of Apollo had warned about the prophecy of which had no conditions and would pass someday. This shows that his actions were determined by fate (Thomas, page 145).

Oedipus took a lot of actions that led to fail. These actions have been outlined in his story. He could have waited to diminishing of the plague before sending Creon to Delhi. Also instead of cursing the murderer of the former king Laius he could have investigated more. Little did he know that he was literally cursing himself. This shows the effects of the free will he chose to take. pg. 438; lines 266-271)

From the character of Oedipus such as pride, disbelief in the gods and ignorance contributed to his destruction. There is a point that Oedipus threated Tiresias of the murder of the former king. He was also angry to a point of calling the old oracle a liar. This led to him fleeing his home in free will because he thought that this would outsmart the gods divine will. He also sought ways to escape and hide from the destiny told by oracle of Apollo. pg. 452; 975-984

king Oedipus had little desire in uncovering the truth about the previous king’s murder and the mystery about his birth, this led to the tragedy that he faced of this deeds. From the conversation he had with Tiresias and Jocasta they tried to encourage him to stop trying to find out the truth. Jocasta comes to a point of begging him to not do it but he responds that he would be convinced to end his desire of finding the truth. He reached to a point of not listening to his wife about stopping the mystery about his life. After discovering the truth from the herdsmen he felt that the fate of his life had come to pass and he felt cursed. He wondered why even the most respected people could not evade the fate. pg. 465; 1300-1303

he however blames his bitterness and sadness to have been brought by Apollo and his friends. He also admits to have stroke himself with his own hand. He claimed full responsibility of his actions. He was responsible of killing his own father and marrying his mother. May be his biggest sin came from trying to place himself in same position as the gods and to also try to escape his own fate. He accepts the burden of his actions when he cries at Jocasta’s broach even though he knew that he would be punished from his deeds. Therefore, it can be put that the act of destruction can be said to be Oedipus free will since every sin must be punished by the gods in the human affairs.pg 335

A warning is also given to the Greeks that the only way to survive in happiness was to live in humility and having respect to the gods. These are values that were not seen in Oedipus. They were also advised to not take things for granted or they would suffer from fate like king Oedipus. They were told of how the same Oedipus who did not look with envy in his eyes on his lot and how he watched the people breakers of misfortune swell him. He did not face anything else but pain till his limited free from pain. (Brunner, pg. 470)

Fate is also present where the king realizes that the prophet Apollo had told him once of it was his fate. He declares to make love to his mother and shed his own fathers blood. At that point he realizes that he was the one who killed the former king. he also notices that his wife Jocasta is his biological mother. The truth behind this is that the events that occur Oedipus could not have changed a thing since it is beyond him. Freewill is seen since on hearing these facts he fled away and to never return (Sophocles page 356)

Oedipus also stabs his eyes out. There’s no where he is forced to do this. This was all his doing. He does this in the hope of not seeing the pain he caused or suffered. He says that for too long he concentrated on the things he should not have seen and not looked at the ones that should have been his guidance. This could have been due to the way he could not have believed that he killed his own father and married his own mother. This led to his mother hanging herself after learning the truth. Another instance of free will is that Oedipus could have chosen to accept the fact that the things were going wrong. In this he would have been able to have things work out differently. This is because fate was the will of gods while freewill was his own actions and decisions.

The fate is also present where the prophesy is undone and the baby is saved and taken to the house of Polybus and Merope in Corinth to be raised.it is seen that the child was not killed in the lands around the mountains as it has been thought before. (Sophocles page 350)



Throughout the entire play, Oedipus pushes Tiresias, Creon, Jocasta, the oracle, the messenger, and the shepherd for information regarding his beginnings (Harold, page 22). Each of them does not give the information they are required to provide.  He finds his own means of getting the truth but as he draws near to the answer, a character tries to stop him. His desires to get the truth however make him have a zeal to push on. This ultimately leads to his downfall. For the entire time, Oedipus could have stopped the plight but he made an independent decision to press on. (Dawe, page 344)

In another instance, Oedipus demonstrates a trait of stubbornness. It is shown when Oedipus reacts by pushing s man at the crossroads. we can see him say, “the one shouldering me aside, the driver, I strike him in anger! …I killed them all, every mother’s son!” (Sophocles 189). In the ancient times, when a caravan came to pass, people were pushed aside. Oedipus did not like this ad so he reacted by pushing them all aside that ended up having them killed. His decision led to his reaction that killed all the people in the caravan. He would have done a different thing if he was a wise man.

Oedipus then defeated the Sphinx by solving a riddle. He made a decision to take the missing king’s throne and to marry his former wife. He was unaware that the woman he married was his own mother. When he later came to learn the truth, he was not remorseful, he accepted all this fact with no signs of regret in him. If he had made a better decision, the events that unfolded in the future would have been different. He made all the choices out of self will. The choices he made led him to his own demise. (Geller, page 121)

In Oedipus the King, Sophocles makes it clear to the Greeks that one has the ability to make decisions free from any forces. He also shows that fate plays a role in the life of human being too. They are tied together for a direct balance. Generally, fate is defined as the divine power that that controls free will and determines one’s life as well.











Works cited

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus. London, 2008. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. New York: Chelsea House, 2007. Internet resource.

Geller, Charles A. Oedipus the King: Agent of Free Will or Victim of Fate. St. Meinrad, Ind: St. Meinrad College, 2009. Print.

Brunner, M. “King Oedipus Retried” Rosenberger & Krausz, London, 2001

Foster, C. Thomas. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” HarperCollins, New York, 2003

Dawe, R.D. ed. Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, revised edition. Cambridge: 2006 Cambridge University Press. p.1

Smith, Elaine Masterpieces of Classic Greek Drama. (2005) Greenwood.

Thomas, J.E. & Osborne, E. Oedipus Rex: Literary Touchstone Edition. Prestwick House (2004). Inc. p. 69Jebb, R.C.


Whitman, C. Sophocles. Harvard University 2005, Press. p. 143.

Hall, E. “Introduction”. Sophocles: Antigone, Oedipus the King, (2004) Electra. Oxford University Press. pp. xix–xxii. Kato, H.D.F (2006). Poises. University of California Press. pp. 236–242.