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In Oedipus Rex, is Oedipus an innocent victim of an unjust fate or does he bear some...

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slideslider | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 26, 2011 at 9:32 AM via web

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In Oedipus Rex, is Oedipus an innocent victim of an unjust fate or does he bear some responsibility in the outcome of his life?

 Is fate the result of unavoidable necessity or does he contribute to it through his own choices? Could he have charged the fate described in the prophecies? How?

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted January 27, 2011 at 7:13 AM (Answer #2)

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Certainly this is debatable--in my interpretation of the play, Oedipus may be a victim of fate; however, he is not innocent and does bear responsibility in the outcome of his life.  The role of prophecy is important in older plays, and it mimics the beliefs of people who held fast to idea that fate and destiny could not be avoided.  If this is true, then Oedipus could never have hoped to escape the prophecy of the oracle.  However, Oedipus is in control of how he handles the prophecy.  Rather than nobly accepting his fate, Oedipus attempts to run from his destiny.  He believes that his mortal intelligence and cunning will be enough to thwart his destiny, hence he runs away from the home of Polybus and Merope.  When he meets Teiresias and learns more of what is in store for him, he calls Teiresias a fool and chooses to believe that he can escape his fate.  So Oedipus's ignorance and cowardice causes his downfall and demise.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 16, 2011 at 9:09 PM (Answer #3)

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I agree completely with #2. Think of it this way--he had the power/ability NOT to do either of the two things which were prophesied over him. He could have refrained from murdering anyone or marrying anyone if he had a healthy respect for or fear of the prophecy. Instead, he leaves the oracle and two of the first things he does are murder and marry. Hard for me to say he is not responsible, at least in part, for his own fate.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:32 PM (Answer #4)

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Cassius of Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, tells the noble Brutus,

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars,

But in ourselves....

Certainly this observation of the Roman Cassius is applicable to the Greek king, Oedipus.  Indeed, it is his hamartis, his arrogance, that propels him to his "fate."  Perhaps if the prediction had not been told to him, Oedipus may not have taken the path that he does; nevertheless, Oedipus does exert free will in his act of anger and marriage, as mentioned above.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:53 PM (Answer #5)

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Oedipus does not seem to have been capable of changing his fate. Though we may be able to argue that he is complicit in the fulfillment of the prophecy outlining his fate, it seems that we cannot make him completely responsible for that fate. After all, his decisions are largely shaped by his unwillingness to accept his fate - and we can't blame him for that when his foreseen fate was no horrendous. 

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