Parricide, suicide, incest, and destiny
KING OEDIPUS SOPHOCOLES.
The play can be considered a personal autobiography investigation by Oedipus which reveals his tragic past and a great example of the fight between free will and destiny or fate. Oedipus is the character whose decisions and life choices lead to an inevitable destiny prophesied before his birth. He is but a victim of circumstances as his parents initiate the road that leads him to kill his biological father and marry his biological mother as stated by the prophecy. The play showcases the ultimate tragedy where several decisions taken to avoid the catastrophe only work to strengthen it. Oedipus, according to the play, committed parricide by killing his father. He also committed incest by marrying his mother. His mother on realizing the truth commits suicide and leads Oedipus to gouge out his eyes with the long pins of her robes’ brooches (Janet, 2), which in all rounds up all prophecies stated in the play. Destiny is the overall theme expressed in the play. In the end, despite any efforts to avert it, Oedipus fulfills the prophecy that had he been given free will would not have been fulfilled. Free will counters destiny and fate while vice versa is also true.
. King Oedipus Sophocles is a play about a Greek king of the city of Thebes. The play demonstrates the influence of destiny which reflects on the decisions on people’s daily lives. Destiny is well represented by the prophecy while choice is represented by the decisions made in the Sophocles. It all starts with a plague that Apollo sends to Thebes to punish Oedipus (Goux, 94) because of the murder of the previous King. King Oedipus is born a prince to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. He, however, has a prophecy hanging over his head that compels his birth parents to contemplate ending his life. They give the child to a shepherd that is supposed to leave the young child to die at Mount Cithaeron. The shepherd is gripped by compassion and hands the baby to another shepherd who in turn gives Oedipus to King Polybus and Queen Merope. Due to the circumstances that inhibit the King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth to get a child, they adopt Oedipus and raise him as their son. He later fulfills the prophecy despite the enormous efforts to avert it. The play revolves around the Greek mythology with the Sophocles main focus being tragic stories that happened in the past. Oedipus’ story is considered one of the three Sophocles that survived to the modern day.
Parricide, as explained by Adam and Kaushal, is the act of killing one’s parent by the offspring (1107). Parricide has been in existence for a long time and has often been brought about by various provocation from the parent. Oedipus-like any other child was provoked by his father who, in his defense, did not know that Oedipus was his son. Apollo, through the Delphic Oracle, had declared the prophecy a while before of the impending doom the child would bring to the family. Killing his father was the first action he took in fulfilling the prophecy that only sought to establish destiny’s control on the play. The king, after being warned of Oedipus’ destiny, decided to kill the child and avoid the whole prophecy. He sent his shepherd who in turn gave it to another shepherd who eventually decided to give the baby to the barren royalties. The king and queen cared for the baby till he went to seek Apollo’s help in finding the truth about his parentage. What he got, on the other hand, was the prophecy of slaying his father and eventually marrying his mother which prompted him to avoid Corinth in an attempt to curtail the prophecy.
King Laius had himself to blame for his death. He had been forewarned about having a baby by whose hand he would meet his death. His death can also be viewed as payback for trying to kill Oedipus as a child. Despite the participants in the fight that ensued at the crossroads not knowing each other, King Laius ripped what he had sowed. The fight also occurs in a very calculated move given that both would have walked off in their separate directions had king Laius not decided to poke Oedipus. The crossroad represents the crossing of paths figuratively of King Laius and Oedipus. Despite their best efforts, they cross paths and Oedipus ends up killing his biological father thus fulfilling the first part of the prophecy. This he uncovers after his story on killing an old man (Ahl, 82) coincide with how the king died. The decisions made between the prophecy being foretold and Oedipus killing his father can be viewed as uninformed. The people involved are trying to avert a great tragedy ahead. They think the best way out and decide to take it. The play clearly indicates the burden of destiny and its impact on the choices people make. Knowledge of what might happen ahead drives people into making decisions that ultimately lead to that destiny while an unknown future gives people a feeling of free will. Destiny and fate therefore act like the complete opposite of free will in decision making.
Parricide has a big psychological effect on an individual that Oedipus portrays perfectly by gouging out his eyes. The blind prophet had expressed sympathy for Oedipus who only had eyesight and lacked the knowledge to understand his actions and their relations to the destiny he had been told by Apollo through the Delphic Oracle.
Suicide is the voluntary action of ending one’s life. Suicide in the King Oedipus story is portrayed by Queen Jocasta. When the last servant survived the battle with Oedipus and reported the death of the king Laius, he lied it was a burglary. He set in motion the rest of the prophecy which involved Oedipus and his mother Queen Jocasta. Due to his explanation, the murder case is not investigated thoroughly which would have led to the people identifying Oedipus as the murderer. This would, in turn, reduce greatly the chances of the second part of the prophecy being fulfilled. Due to this lie, Oedipus is not punished as it should be and he ends up saving the city Thebes from the sphinx making him the hero the people needed and eventually their king. The bereaved queen Jocasta, therefore, has to marry the new hero completing the prophecy. A thorough investigations would have stopped this from happening.
Queen Jocasta on the other hand also rips what she sowed. She, as a mother, should have protected her child with or without the prophecy hanging over their heads. She conspires with her husband to kill the new born child, Oedipus, in an effort to prevent the prophecy from occurring. This, in turn, leads to the death of the king, her husband, and her eventual marriage to her son. When Oedipus investigates (Yeats, 50) history is revealed, she ends up killing herself due to the emotional strain the news carry. Not only did her decisions lead to the prophecy being fulfilled, but she also lost against the gods. Her resolve to kill herself can be understood as punishment for her actions. She neglects her role as the mother which ultimately leads to her suicide. Queen Jocasta knew her fate immediately she gave birth to a baby boy. The known future scared her into accepting her husband’s simple solution to the mess that would ensue. She thinks killing the boy would avert the prophecy. She would never have imagined her decisions would lead to Oedipus fulfilling the prophecy. Given her fate, she thinks her decisions are supposed to move her away from the prophesied tragedy but they only support the fate to come. Her last decision, therefore, can also be seen as the only free will decision she ever took to end her life that had nothing to do with destiny. Destiny dictates all her decisions till the prophecy is fulfilled which leaves an open future for the first time since she gave birth and decides to end her life. The only act of free will in this play is her suicide given the rest of her decisions lead her to her prophesied fate.
Incest is the action of sleeping with one’s own blood relative. Incest has been lamented as a mortal sin since the beginning of time. In all cultures, incest has often resulted to getting exiled or outcast from the community. This displays why the suicidal decision taken by Queen Jocasta is considered a relief. She cannot live with the thought of having committed incest which shows in great detail how incest is viewed in the society.
The prophecy, having sparked off the chain of events that lead to the incest, greatly scares the parents. Queen Jocasta on one hand could have stopped the king in his attempt to kill the child Oedipus, but given the details described by the prophecy, she joined in the planning. The disgust perceived by the details of the prophecy is able to break any compassion and love held for the baby she just had. She ignores her maternal instincts to protect her child. This perfectly describes the society’s response to an act or an allegation of incest. The societal shun alone is enough to break the maternal bond between Oedipus and his mother Queen Jocasta. The chorus is very disgusted by the truth once revealed to an extent of turning on their hero who saved them twice, from the plague and the Sphinx a monster half human half beast (Segal, 207). The chorus represents the will of the people and the society in general. Despite the goodwill he had done and his innocence in the decisions that overshadowed his good nature in his life, the act of incest proved to doom him forever. Despite killing his father, his relationship with his mother was the final nail in the coffin. He blinds himself (Edmunds, 56) by gouging out his eyes in his grief that confirms the blind prophet’s words. Incest often yields children with many genetic problems which have led to scientists supporting the religious and cultural leaders in discouraging it. In a study of children conceived through incest, 43% of the children had severe abnormalities (Baird, Patricia and Barbara, 854-857).
Incest gives the largest support to the notion fate and destiny are the complete opposite of free will. The parties involved, Oedipus and Jocasta, have no idea about their history. The decisions they make first marrying and becoming king and queen are thought to be of free will but eventually when the truth comes out, they all made decisions as prophesied. If free will had been exercised, they wouldn’t have gotten married or committed incest. This is shown by the devastation they portray as the reaction to the truth with the suicide and gouging out of the eyes.
Destiny in the play is represented by the prophecy made by Apollo through the Delphic Oracle and the blind prophet Tiresias. The play highlights the power destiny holds over all mankind with every decision and luck whether good or bad leading them to their destiny. The prophecy does not mention how the events it foresees are going to happen which gives the king and queen a glimmer of hope to end the prospects of it happening. The little hope they get motivates them to make decisions thought to be of free will but only support the coming known future. This gives support to the notion, fate is a cruel mistress. The king and queen would have decided to ignore the prophecy and raise the child in the right way. By choosing to ignore the prophecy, they would have won against destiny and exercised free will. The knowledge of what was to happen led to decisions that seemed, at the time, to counter the prophecy, but unknowingly to all of them, started a chain reaction that ended up with the prophecy being accomplished.
Destiny in the past eras was considered a major honor to accomplish. It gave and still gives people a sense of purpose and belonging. Human beings can aim and set goals to achieve by embracing their destinies. Despite being mythological with the thought of free will having spread into mankind’s cultures’, destiny is an age old belief that drives people to fulfill their potential. Free will, on the other hand, gives people control over their lives. People can live their lives without having the fear of a known future but a promise of the unknown possibilities in the future.
Destiny exudes everything that acts against free will and thus human beings will always try to defy the odds just like King Laius and Queen Jocasta tried. In Oedipus’ case, he represents the humanity itself as pieces on a chessboard when destiny is in play. All their actions and decisions seem to lead to one inevitable result which points out why everyone fights against it so hard. Destiny can be considered a great motivational influence in an optimistic mindset. It can also be considered slavery in a pessimistic mindset in that no matter what anyone does, they end up doing something preselected for them.
Free will also provide people motivation on the infinite possibilities held by the unknown future. People can make their decisions without feeling played by a larger power. Free will is only exercised by Jocasta by taking her life. Despite people not always making the right decisions when allowed to choose their paths, free will is all they have in such a hard cruel world. The power to shape their destiny.
WORK CITED ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Sharma, K. And Weisman A. Parricide, Attempted. “Forensic analysis and psycho- legal implications of parricide and attempted parricide.” Forensic Sci 42.6 (1997): 1107-1113.
The book details the definition and the current trend in parricide crime. Parricide which involves murdering one’s relative has been on the rise in recent times and seems to have psychological effects on the person.
Baird, Patricia A., and Barbara McGillivray. “Children of incest.” The Journal of pediatrics 101.5 (1982): 854-857.
The journal details the observation made from a case study involving children born from incestuous relations. It gives the scientific perspective on banning incest thus supporting the cultural and religious reserve on incest.
Fiona Macintosh. “Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus.” University of Oxford (2009).
The information provided gives a basic mythology around king Oedipus and Apollo’s prophecy. It generally provides data on the decisions and actions that led to the making of the Sophocles detailing the tragic story of king Oedipus.
Green, Janet M. “Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.” The Explicator 52.1 (1993): 2-3.
The book also provides an intricate view on the circumstances that led to Oedipus’ life becoming a mythological tragedy. It assists in understanding the context of the play.
Goux, Jean-Joseph. Oedipus, philosopher. Stanford University Press, (1993): 94.
The book provides the basis of the play as an autobiography of Oedipus’ life which he uncovers after persistent investigation into the murder of his father which brought about a plague in the city of Thebes.
Edmunds, Lowell. Theatrical space and historical place in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus. Rowman & Littlefield, (1996): 56.
The book sheds light on the development of the theatrical hit Oedipus and the life after the events in the play. It shows the mistreatment and exile of Oedipus after he uncovers the truth. His investigation bears fruit and saves Thebes but costs him his throne.
Silk, Michael Stephen. Tragedy and the tragic: Greek theatre and beyond. Clarendon Press, 1996.
The book is a summary of many Greek myths that revolve around great tragedy. The compilation ensures a large amount of views on the tragedy including Oedipus’ life tragedy. It provides more information on Oedipus’ story.
Segal, Charles. Tragedy and civilization: an interpretation of Sophocles. University of Oklahoma Press, (1999): 207.
The book highlights the attraction Sophocles gained in mythical tragedies and its relation to the current era. Greek myths often relate to mankind’s day to day activities. The book tries to understand Sophocles’ fascination and application.
Yeats, W. B. The writing of Sophocles’ king Oedipus. The American philosophy, (1989): 50.
The play details the exact story displayed to the people of the tragic tale of King Oedipus. It shows the characters involved and explains the plight of Oedipus.
Ahl, Federick. Two faces of Oedipus: Sohphocles’ Oedipus, Tyrannus and Senecca’s Oedipus. Cornell University Press, (2008): 82.
This is a comparison and contrast of the three Sophocles in a bid to highlight the correct timeline of the events represented by the Sophocles.