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Fate in The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles By Paul Roche

Updated on January 3, 2014

Fate, Humility, and Dependency in Oedipus the Rex

In The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles, Paul Roche writes an insightful and very much valid, forward about human nature to invoke some thoughts about the meaning of the trilogy. It is true that fates’ verdict does not characterize us; but can we control our actions in the aftermath? Do we remain dependent on somebody once a tragedy has befallen us? Perhaps the best way to deal with a situation is to understand and accept our limits. In the Oedipus trilogy (Oedipus the Rex) several of Roche’s contentions about fate, humility, and dependency are utterly revealed.

According to Paul Roche, a man’s fate is beyond the comfortable grasp of his hands, yet his response to the results is entirely in the palm of his hand. In the trilogy, Oedipus the king, desperately tries to avoid his unfortunate prophecy from coming true. Once warned by the Oracle of Delphi that he was condemned to murder his father and marry his mother, he decides to run away from the city in which he was brought up by his stepfather and stepmother, whom he thinks are his real parents, in order to avoid his prophecy coming true. As he heads toward a new life in Thebes he murders a man whom he gets into a braw with on a road. After reaching Thebes he solves a riddle by a sphinx that is terrorizing the city and marries the queen, Jocasta. Unaware that he had just fulfilled his prophecy, Oedipus feels accomplished and proud. His glory does not last long once Tiresias, a blind prophet tells him of his sin. (Sophocles 8-26), Up to this point Oedipus had no choice but to follow a predestined path, but now he stands alone at a crossroad with the full ability to make a decision about how to deal with the consequences of his actions.

“We too need to be told that man is but a limited and contingent creature, subject to sudden disrupting forces.” In the second play of the Rex Oedipus trilogy, Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus relies heavily on Antigone’s help in order to survive. After running away from Thebes and blinding himself because he believed there was no more happiness in his life, Oedipus is a handicap, old man who struggles to walk even at the slowest pace. He tires frequently and has to sit to regain his strength. Antigone is his protection and she too is very tired, yet she does not give up on him. Oedipus relies on Antigone to be his missing eyes and in almost every scene in the play he needs her to understand what is going on. (Sophocles 88-89), When Creon comes and takes Antigone and Ismene away from him, he is barely aware of it because of his blindness! I believe Oedipus would have passed away much sooner without the help of Antigone. On his own he would have lost his way and would never have arrived at Athens. Roche’s argument, that we are all dependent on somebody else, is very true in the case of Oedipus and Antigone.

We do not have to be famous to be in a welcoming place for ourselves, yet if we strive for perfection, we should understand that we have limits and should accept them. Ismene clearly knew her limits when she decides to not to help bury her dead brother Polynieces because the consequence for doing so is fatal. Creon, the new king of Thebes resents Polynieces because he betrayed his city and forbids the burial of his body, which was the worst way a Greek could die. Antigone attempts to persuade Ismene to help her bury their dead brother yet Ismene declines to do so because she knows how much she is willing to sacrifice for another person. Ismene can not be criticized for not helping her family because in Oedipus at Colonus she too helps her weak father through his journey. Furthermore, in Antigone she is also looking out for her sister and trying to save both of their lives by not letting Antigone bury Polynieces. Ismene is a person who parallels Roche’s opinion that humans should know and accept their limits.

Fate speaks loudly for every character in The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles trilogy (Oedipus the Rex), none can elude it but all can control their choices after the storm has hit. And after it has, we remain dependent on a helping hand. Everybody has their limits and being human only means that we must understand and accept our limits and gifts. Paul Roche paints a beautiful image of the human ways and each character in the trilogy falls victim to one of those truths.

Scene out of Oedipus Rex

Oedipus the Rex
Oedipus the Rex | Source

Fate speaks loudly for every character in The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles trilogy (Oedipus the Rex), none can elude it but all can control their choices after the storm has hit. And after it has, we remain dependent on a helping hand. Everybody has their limits and being human only means that we must understand and accept our limits and gifts. Paul Roche paints a beautiful image of the human ways and each character in the trilogy falls victim to one of those truths.

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      Sonia akins 

      7 years ago

      Great hubs,There is a lesson to learn from king Oedipus,the prophecy he avoided came to pass.

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