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The Downfall of Oedipus the King Assignment Help

1. Who do you think is responsible for the horrible downfall and tragedy of Oedipus? Likely suspects include: The Gods, Apollo, Fate, his own hubris, Tiresias, Jocasta. Laius and the Sphinx. 2. Part of Oedipus's quest involved solving riddles. For example, the riddle of the sphinx, the riddle of his own birth, the riddle of who killed Laius. In what ways could the play be said to be about the riddle of existence? 

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The tragic downfall of Oedipus the King: The role of Fate

The ancient Greeks always acknowledged the role that Fate had over a man's life. This entity, Fate, was treated as a reality that existed outside of an individual, and shaped the actions and consequences that followed. Modern-day literature may have brought forward its concept as being a harbinger of romantic destiny, but for the Greeks, Fate had always been a force that was terrifying, and unstoppable. Similarly, it had an important role to play in Oedipus's tragic downfall, as it controlled his destiny despite lending him the false sense of freedom pertaining to the actions he undertook. Oedipus was, however, not the only character controlled by Fate, as Laius and Jocasta also had their lives dictated and pre-determined by it.

Fate was nothing but the will of the Gods. In the play, it is an unopposable reality that spoke in place of Apollo in numerous mysterious ways. The answers that Fate would give were incomplete, thereby leaving the questioners in a dilemma, and an unsuspecting choice between the path of illumination and the path to darkness. Even before Oedipus was born, it was already prophesized from the Delphi that he would grow up to kill his own father and marry his mother. All the characters in the play had attempted to trick Fate, but none had succeeded, and their actions further led to the realization of the prophecy. Laius and Jocasta's heartless decision regarding the baby, and the Herdsman's subsequent pity on finding it, along with Oedipus's decision to leave Corinth and give up a life as the King's son - each of these actions have their own part in fulfilling the destiny as set by Fate, ultimately leading to the protagonist's downfall.

Furthermore, Oedipus had already learnt of the terrible prediction, and had tried almost everything in his power to avert it. For instance, he fled from Corinth in an attempt to save the King, whom he believed was his father. However, he killed Laius on his journey, unaware that it was him who was his real father, and married Jocasta, his birth mother. This occurred after he saved Thebes from the Sphinx, and thus Fate had been successful in making him commit two extremely horrifying crimes - patricide, and parrincest. His repentance is later evident in the play:

"I'd not then be my father's slayer, Nor called the groom of her whence I was born. Abandoned by the Gods, child of sacrilege, Sharing the source of those I myself sired." (Oedipus Rex, lines 1383-1386)

The great Aristotle had always elucidated, that hamartia was an integral part of the character of any tragic hero. However, Oedipus does not exactly meet this requirement, since his downfall was already decided by and bound to Fate. Perhaps the only aspect of his character that can be attributed to it is his inquisitive nature (Knox and Bloom). He was no flawless person, and was guilty of hubris, but these elements cannot be blamed for his downfall, since his tragedy was already pre-determined by the Gods through the hands of Fate. He has been portrayed as a free man, making his own decisions that ultimately led to his ruin. He also failed to realize, that not all riddles required intelligence to unravel, as some of them should be left the way they were - as mysteries. His rashness as well as over-confidence ultimately made the Gods unleash their fury over him (Kousoulis, et al.), since no man had the right to question them or they would be punished.

Thus, all the facts as stated above point to one definite agent that had been instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Oedipus - Fate. The protagonist might seem like a free agent, but in many ways he had been a victim of Fate. His departure from Corinth, together with the murder of Laius and his marriage to Jocasta - all had been predicted by Fate even before his birth. Albeit unknowingly, his actions only pushed him further to his downfall, despite his many attempts to evade his destiny.

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