College Term Papers on Oedipus the King

Sophocles’ Oedipus the King demonstrates a fundamental relationship between man's free will and fate, which the Greeks believed guided the universe in a harmonious purpose. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held responsible for his own actions. Both these concept of fate and free will played a vital element in Oedipus' destruction.

From the commencement of this tragedy, Oedipus made many decisions that led to his own downfall. This was evident in several scenes. Instead of waiting for the plague to end, Oedipus, out of compassion for his suffering people, sent Creon to Delphi. When Oedipus learned of Apollo's word, he could have rationally investigated the assassination of the former King Laius; but in his impulsiveness, he fervently cursed the murderer, and in doing so, unwittingly cursed himself. "Upon the murderer I invoke this curse- whether he is one man and all unknown, or one of many- may he wear out his life in misery or doom! If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth, I pray that I myself may feel my curse" (pg 438, lines 266-271).

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Oedipus' firm desire to expose the truth about Laius' murder and the mystery of his own birth, led him to the catastrophic realization of his dreadful deeds. Teiresias, Jocasta and the herdsman tried to stop him from finding out the truth. After realizing that the prophecy had came true, Jacasta begged him to just let the mystery go unsolved for once. "I beg you- do not hunt this out- I beg you, if you have any care for your own life. What I am suffering is enough" (pg 461, 1158-1161). Oedipus replied, "I will not be persuaded to let chance of finding out the whole thing clearly" (pg 461, 1166-1167). He was unable to stop his quest for the truth, even under his wife's insistence.

When Oedipus discovered the truth about his birth from the herdsman, he cried, "I who first saw the light bred of a match accursed, and accursed in my living with them, cursed in my killing" (pg 465, 1300-1303). Oedipus knew that he was cursed by his fate and it had certainly come to pass. A dramatic ode is then sung by the chorus. This ode is on the sorrow of life and the sad fate which can even affect the most honored, like Oedipus. "What man, what man on earth wins more happiness than a seeming and after that turning away? Oedipus you are my pattern of this, Oedipus you and your fate! Luckless Oedipus, whom of all men I envied not at all (pg 465, 1305-1311).

At the end of this tragic play, when Oedipus scraped out his eyes, the chorus asked him what god urged him to go blind. Oedipus replied, "It was Apollo, friends, Apollo that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion. But was the hand that struck me was none but my own" (pg 467, 1450-1453).

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He took full responsibility for his actions that he was guilty of killing his father and marrying his mother; but perhaps his greatest sin was that he tried to elevate himself to the level of the gods by trying to escape his fate. Ultimately, he was held accountable for his actions, causing a reversal of fortune in his prosperous life.