Argument in Favor of Oedipus Rex
“Argument in Favor” Haseena Khan BS 3rd year Departmen of English Submitted to: Ma’am Fehmina Naz Submitted on: 19th September 2011 Argument in Favor of Oedipus’ Fate Play: Oedipus Rex Writter: Sophocles No one can deny freewill of a person totally, so as fate. But as I m in favor of Oedipus, the protagonist of ancient Greek play “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles. I think here in it, fate is more responsible for Oedipus’ end. Many questions were raised against Oedipus in class argument about his character flaws, running from the fate, killing his father, marrying his mother, and insulting prophet etc.
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Here I would try to answer as much I can. Firstly it is important to mention that, it is the play which had great importance for Aristotle. Because the rules made by him, had great influence from the famous Greek play “Oedipus Rex”. If we see it in the perspective of “Poetics”, then no one can blame Oedipus for his faults and sinful acts which led him to tragic end. Because, firstly it is a tragedy not comedy, so it should have a tragic end in any case. Secondly according to Aristotelian rules, the hero should have some major faults in him (hamartia) which led him to tragic end.
I don’t think it’s Oedipus’ fault at all. If anyone is to blame, it’s his parents. His parents were trying to run away from fate and wound their child with cruelness by hitting nail on his ankle and letting their child to die on mountains. They were only trying to protect themselves, but still it was his fate that he was remained alive. Jocasta herself admitting that; Jocasta But this child had not been three days in this world before the King had pierced the baby’s ankles and left him to die in a lonely mountain side.
Here the point is that if they were cruel enough to hit nail in their own infant child’s ankle and not murdering him at once but leaving him to die on mountains, then why didn’t they kill him themselves? By this the chance of being alive would not be there nor would the prophecy be fulfilled. Furthermore it was also being asked that why he listen to a drunker and took him seriously? So for this, my answer is, if someone told you that you had no parents, then wouldn’t you want to know what he meant? Oedipus went to his foster parents and asked about it, but they refused and told him that he was their own child.
Here again question was raised why he didn’t ask and conform again so, it was possible that he respect his parents a lot and didn’t want to hurt them or may be because of generation gap. As nowadays children are quite close to their parents but in earlier times it was not the case. Moreover as Polybus was a king, so generation gap was a normal thing, because usually, due to their status kings were not close to their children even, as normal fathers are. After that he went to oracle to know the truth. But here he was not answered what he had asked, because of which he was not able to clear his mind but was more confused.
Someone asked during class argument that why he didn’t asked again from the oracle to be cleared, then another student answered that it is forbidden in every religion not to cross question from the God. But here my point is that, in Greek, oracles never told clear prophecies, they always gave hints, and then it was on the person’s intellect, who asked it, to interpret the right meaning. So if Oedipus asked the same question again, he was surely going to have the same answer, means it was for no purpose. Oedipus The god dismissed my question without reply; he spoke of other things.
Some were clear, full of wretchedness, dreadful, unbearable: As, that I should lie with my own mother, breed children from whom all men would turn their eyes; and that I should be my father’s murderer…. After that he decided to leave the place with confused thoughts. On the way he met with Laius and his servants, where they had a fight that who will first cross the road. One of Laius’ servant attacked Oedipus first, where he hit him in self defense. By this fight he murdered all people except one. This is his fate that he used the same road, met with Laius and had fought on a minor issue.
If the fate is already been cast in iron, then what difference do his characteristics make! Teiresias himself said that whatever is written in fate will be done; Teiresias Well, it will come what will, though I be mute. Oedipus Since come it must, thy duty is to tell me. Teiresias I have no more to say; storm as thou willst, And give the rein to all thy pent-up rage. (341-347) If it is to be asked that why he was so aggressive? He should control his anger! Moreover why he murdered four people, as murder is a sin.
So it should be kept in mind that he was already upset by the unexpected prophecy and servants became him angrier by attacking him, also he was the same arrogant father’s son, so he should not be blame only. Names from the heroic age were of course often related to the man’s nature or destiny or we can also take it in other way that name effect person’s life. Usually good and meaningful names are considered important because they have some effect on human’s whole life and personality. So we can say that names did their work in this play as well.
The name ‘Oedipus’ is derived from a verb “oida” which means ‘know’ which connects to knowledge and “pous” means ‘swollen foot’. It can be meant like that, a person who knows his feet, by which he was able to solve the riddle. After solving the riddle, he got famous as the hero of Thebes, he became the new king as Laius was murdered by ‘someone’ and his widow was offered to him for marriage. Now here one of my class fellows pointed out that Oedipus is so immoral that he married to an old lady just for the sake of kingship but actually it was not that so.
Firstly he got the kingship by solving riddle not by marrying the widow of Laius. Secondly in ancient times kings had many wives and got married even they were old enough. Oedipus is an intelligent man, an ideal king and a genuinely good human being. He has all the qualities of a great man. But he carries the seeds of destruction within himself. His impulsive and short tempered nature along with fate determines his downfall. But if we think positively then we can see that he could have left the plague to take its course but his pity over the sufferings of his people forced him to consult oracle.
He could have left the murder of Laius uninvestigated, but his love of justice obliged him to inquire. He need not have force the truth from the reluctant Theban shepherd but he could not rest content with a lie, but the fellow person in against, blamed Oedipus that he discovered the truth only because of his curiosity of discovering new things, which led him toward downfall. Another objection was raised that he had no respect for religion and prophets, as he insulted Teiresias a lot.
It is true that he should respect the prophet and should not loose his temper, but on the other side, to some extent Oedipus was also not wrong. Because Teiresias knew everything. Everyone is calling Teiresias physically blind but in reality sighted, on the other hand Oedipus, physically sighted but in reality a blind person. Then why Teiresias didn’t speak when Oedipus was going to become new king of Thebes? People ask prophecies about their new born babies, then why they didn’t asked about their new king? If any of this was done before, Oedipus never become Thebe’s king and never married to his own mother.
It is true that Oedipus has some bad qualities which let him to a tragic end, but it is also unavoidable that hamartia is very important element in tragic plays. Oedipus tried hard to escape from his fate but once fate is written, it is written to be happened anyway. The murder of his father and marring with his mother was written in his fate, but here we should see that what were his intentions? Of course good one, he never thought to do these sins in any case but was done by fate, and because of this he gained the pity of the readers and became the “ideal tragic hero”.