"King Oedipus " : Role of Fate.

The concept of determinism or fate is a common theme in the workings of Greek literature, especially in tragedies. King Oedipus by Sophocles is an example of such a tragedy in which fate rules supreme and the attempt made to avoid it is the cause of tragic downfall of infamous Oedipus, the hero of the play.

Fate plays a significant role in Oedipus’ life. Even at his birth it cast spell on him. The Oracle told King Laius and Queen Jocasta, Oedipus’s parents, that the child would shed blood of his father and marry his mother. To avoid this ominous decree Laius and Jocasta abandoned the infant to be killed. But fate  came in the guise of a shepherd who rescued the child and gave it to Polybus, the heirless king of Corinth.

Oedipus grew up manhood in the house of Polybis as his son. Then fate again struck and in this time with the prediction that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother.  Like Laius, Oedipus was also frightened of such a terrible fate and thus determined to leave the country forever to defy the prophesy. On his way he met a man and engaged in hot argument. In fury, he killed him not knowing that that man was indeed his real father, Laius. Thus, fate brought him to that place and half of the prophesy was fulfilled.

When Oedipus arrived in. Thebes, the city was littered by Sphinx and her riddle. But Oedipus outdid the monster, killed it and become the deliverer of the city. He was made king and he married the recent widowed Queen Jocasta, his real mother. Thus, fate triumphed over human effort defying it.

  Sophocles begins his play King Oedipus when Thabes, ruled by Oedipus, is afflicted with a plague. Oedipus immediately starts his inquiry to find out the cause of the plague and the deliverance from it. But it is the irony of fate that he discovers himself as the “unclean thing”, the “cursed polluter”, guilty of both patricide and incest. At length he is doomed by his inexorable fate.

However, some critics think that fate is not the only one responsible for his suffering. His flaws --stubbornness, bad temper, pride -- lead him to his destiny.

Thus it can be concluded that though fate plays a predominant role in the life of Oedipus, it takes the hand of Oedipus himself to dig his doom. As C. M. Bowra says, “The hand that works the destruction is of Oedipus but the power behind the action is Apollo.”

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