In his plays, Shakespeare also created tragedy that revolved around a heroic character who falls from greatness. But Shakespeare's heroes appear fully characterized and their tragedies develop as much from their own conscious intentions as from Fate. Macbeth, for example, pursues his goal of the throne ruthlessly, with murderous ambition.
When the witches' prophecies, upon which he has based his hopes, turn out to be just as misleading as any oracle's pronouncement at Delphi, the audience is more likely to blame Macbeth for his heartless ambition than to bemoan his fate with him. In contrast, Sophocles' hero — even with his tragic flaw as Aristotle terms it — maintains the audience's sympathy throughout the drama. The flaw of his character represents less a vicious fault and more a vulnerability, or a blind spot. Oedipus' brilliance, then, is matched by his overconfidence and rashness — a habit of mind that makes him prey to the very fate he wishes to avoid.
Significantly, Oedipus' desperate attempt to escape Fate arises not from ambition or pride, but from an understandable and pious desire to live without committing heinous offenses. Prudently, he decides never to return to the kingdom where the people he believes to be his parents rule. But when an overbearing man on the road nearly runs him down and then cuffs him savagely, Oedipus rashly kills his attacker, who turns out be his father.
So, just as he thinks himself free of his fate, Oedipus runs right into it — literally, at a crossroads. In Oedipus the King , Oedipus displays his characteristic brilliance and overconfidence in what he regards as his heroic search for the murderer of Laius. He pursues the mystery relentlessly, confident that its solution will yield him the same glory he enjoyed when he answered the riddle of the Sphinx. Oedipus' self-assurance that he has taken care of his fate blinds him to it and begins the fall that will end in his literal blindness.
Thus he becomes the victim — rather than the conquerer — of Fate. In Antigone , Creon also displays a blind spot. Wrapped up in the trappings of power, Creon puts his responsibility for Thebes above the laws of the gods and has to be reminded of the gods' will by Tiresias. Creon's last-minute attempt to conform to the gods' wishes only reveals to him his own inescapable fate — the destruction of his family and the end of his rule.
Antigone herself is painfully aware of the power of Fate, attributing all the tragedy in her family to the will of Zeus. When she acts decisively, choosing to obey the laws of the gods rather than the laws of the state, she seems almost like a modern heroine — a model of individual courage and responsibility. Yet, before her death, Antigone shrinks in horror, acknowledging that she has acted only within the rigid constraints of Fate; indeed, in that moment, her earnestness and conviction fade as she feels the approach of her own doom.
Antigone, like the rest of her family, must yield to Fate — the curse that hangs over the house of Oedipus. Oedipus at Colonus features prolonged debate and protestations over Fate, before granting a unique blessing to the suffering hero. By the time of the story, a sullen Oedipus has grown used to his role as the pariah, the greatest sinner in the world. Still, he argues to the chorus that he did not consciously or willfully commit any crimes.
At this point — the end of his life — Oedipus concedes the power of Fate as the reason for his destruction; at the same time, he embraces Fate in his death and fights vigorously to meet his end as the gods promised — at peace and as a benefit to the city where he is buried. Ironically, then, the victim of Fate becomes part of the force that has tortured him; his will to reward and to punish becomes as powerful as the will of the gods themselves.
In Oedipus at Colonus — Sophocles' last play — the dramatist seems intent on making a peace between the power of Fate and his willful, all too human hero. The chants of the chorus, as well as the formal, poetic speeches of the characters, suggest that Oedipus' heroic suffering results in a profound transformation into godlike glory.
As tragic and terrible as the story of the Oedipus Trilogy is, then, Sophocles grants his audience the hope that the blows of Fate lead not only to wisdom, but to transcendence. Next Ritual and Transcendence in the Oedipus Trilogy. Sophocles achieves an amazing compression and force by limiting the dramatic action to the day on which Oedipus learns the true nature of his birth and his destiny.
The fact that the audience knows the dark secret that Oedipus unwittingly slew his true father and married his mother does nothing to destroy the suspense. That knowledge enables them to fear the final revelation at the same time that they pity the man whose past is gradually and relentlessly uncovered to him.
The plot is thoroughly integrated with the characterization of Oedipus, for it is he who impels the action forward in his concern for Thebes, his personal rashness, and his ignorance of his past. His flaws are a hot temper and impulsiveness, but without those traits his heroic course of self-discovery would never occur. Fate for Sophocles is not something essentially external to human beings but something at once inherent in them and transcendent. Oracles and prophets in this play may show the will of the gods and indicate future events, but it is the individual who gives substance to the prophecies.
Moreover, there is an element of freedom granted to human beings, an ability to choose, where the compulsions of character and the compulsions of the gods are powerless.
It is in the way individuals meet the necessities of their destiny that freedom lies. They can succumb to fate, pleading extenuating circumstances, or they can shoulder the full responsibility for what they do. In the first case they are merely pitiful, but in the second they are tragic and take on a greatness of soul that nothing can conquer. A crucial point in the play is that Oedipus is entirely unaware that he killed his father and wedded his mother.
He himself is the cause of the plague on Thebes, and in vowing to find the murderer of Laius and exile him he unconsciously pronounces judgment on himself.
Oedipus, the king and the hero who saved Thebes from the Sphinx, believes in his own innocence. He is angry and incredulous when the provoked Teiresias accuses him of the crime, so he jumps to the conclusion that Teiresias and Creon are conspirators against him.
As plausible as that explanation may be, Oedipus maintains it with irrational vehemence, not even bothering to investigate it before he decides to have Creon put to death. Every act of his is performed rashly:
- The Themes in Oedipus Rex Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex, contains one main theme, which this essay will consider. The theme is the general doctrine or belief implicit in the drama, which the author seeks to make persuasive to the reader (Abrams ).
Aristotle considered Oedipus Tyrannus the supreme example of tragic drama and modeled his theory of tragedy on it. He mentions the play no fewer than eleven times in his De poetica (c. b.c.
Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King) essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King) by Sophocles. Unlike most editing & proofreading services, we edit for everything: grammar, spelling, punctuation, idea flow, sentence structure, & more. Get started now!
This essay will show that Oedipus was a victim of fate, but he was no puppet because he freely and actively sought his doom, although he was warned many . Full Glossary for The Oedipus Trilogy; Essay Questions; Practice Projects; Cite this Literature Note; Critical Essays The Power of Fate in the Oedipus Trilogy Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List. Are people truly responsible for their actions? This question has puzzled humanity throughout history.