Oedipus the KIng



Robert Choi March 7, 1997

English 12E Mrs. Ziminski


The Mysteries of Fate

Among the first thing a historian discovers in his study of early civilization are records of

people’s belief, or faith, in powers greater than themselves, and their desire to understand what causes

these powers to act. People everywhere wonder about the marvelous things in the sky and on the earth.

What makes the rain? How do the plants and animals live and grow and die? Why are some people lucky

and others unlucky? Some believe in free will while others believe in fate or destiny. In the play Oedipus

the King by Sophocles, Oedipus was a true victim of fate.

Gods and goddesses were believed to be responsible for the wonders of science, and the vagaries

of human nature; therefore, according to the facts of this story, Oedipus was a true victim of fate for

several reasons. Laius and Jocasta, the childless king and queen of Thebes, were told by the god Apollo

that their son would kill his father and marry his mother (page 56). A son was born to them, and they

tried to make sure that the prophecy would not come true. They drove a metal pin through the infants

ankles and gave it to a shepherd, with instructions to leave it to die. The shepherd pitied the little infant

so he gave the child to another shepherd. This shepherd gave the baby to a childless king and queen of

Corinth, Polybus and Merope. This royal couple named the boy Oedipus, which in its Greek form

Oidipous means "swollen foot." Oedipus was brought up believing that Polybus and Merope were his real

parents, and Lauis and Jocasta believed that their child was dead and the prophecy of Apollo was false.

Many years later, he was told by a drunk man at a banquet that he was not a true heir of Polybus

(page 55). He then went to the oracle of Apollo, to ask the god who his real parents were. All he was told

was that he would kill his father and marry his mother (page 56). He resolved never to return to Corinth,

to Polybus and Merope, and started out to make a new life for himself elsewhere. He came to a place

where three main roads met, and in the narrow place was ordered off the road and then attacked by the

driver of a chariot in which an old man was riding. A fight started, and Oedipus, in self-defense, killed

the old man and his attendants. The old man in the chariot was Lauis, king of Thebes, and the father of

Oedipus. Although Oedipus had not known it, he had killed his father and the first half of the prophecy

of Apollo was fulfilled. Oedipus continued on his way and arrived at Thebes. He solved a riddle which

saved the city from the sphinx. He became the king of Thebes, and then married a lady by the name of

Jocasta. The prophecy of Apollo was now completely fulfilled. Oedipus having no knowledge of Apollo’s

prophecy being true, cursed the individual who killed Laius to be banished from Thebes forever. After

putting two and two together, it was he, Oedipus, who had killed Laius, his own father. He did not go

back on his word, and like a man, he dethroned himself as king, and banished himself from Thebes. Once

again, he was destined to be dethroned and banished.

Comparing my life with Oedipus’, I’ve discovered a great deal about free choice and destiny. I

learned that one day, you can be the richest person alive, yet be the poorest person the next day and vice

versa. In life, anything can happen, whether it is expected or unexpected. That is when fate overrides and

overpowers free will. Free will is a choice that an individual decides to do or accomplish. Destiny or fate

is what just happens. No one knows when or how something will happen, but it will. Laius and Jocasta

heard that their child will kill the father and marry the mother. Even after abandoning the baby and

believing that he was dead, the prophecy was destined and somehow came true. With me getting caught

for shoplifting was also destined. The voices