Oedipus the King
Fate and Free Will Theme
A central theme of the Oedipus the King is the tension between individual action and fate. While free choices, such as Oedipus’s decision to pursue knowledge of his identity, are significant, fate is responsible for Oedipus’s incest and many of the other most critical and devastating events of the play. By elevating the importance of fate, Sophocles suggests that characters cannot be fully responsible for their actions. It becomes difficult, for example, to blame Oedipus for marrying mother given his ignorance.
Questions About Fate and Free Will
- Do some characters seem to control their fates more than others? If so, how do they do it?
- Discuss Oedipus’s understanding of his own destiny. How does this change throughout the course of this play?
- How does Oedipus’s fate impact the fates of other members of his family?
- Do you think Oedipus would have fulfilled the prophecy of killing his father and sleeping with his mother if his parents hadn't tried to kill him as an infant?
Chew on This
Once he is able to recognize his destiny, Oedipus is better able to influence his own life.
Oedipus is not limited by fate, rather by the knowledge of his fate.