The unfortunate Oedipus in Sophocles's play Oedipus Rex learns far too late that he has fulfilled a prophecy made at his birth. He has killed his father and married his mother. Of course, he doesn't realize that he is doing either deed at the time he does them.
Oedipus has been raised by adoptive parents although he doesn't even suspect it until someone at a feast shouts out, “Thou art not true son of thy sire.” Indeed, the man is right, for Oedipus's real parents, fearful of the prophecy, cast him out when he was only a newborn. He was found by a shepherd and brought to the people he always knew as his parents. They try their best to comfort him after the feast, but Oedipus decides that he needs to know the truth.
Therefore, Oedipus travels to the oracle at Delphi where he receives “grievous” prophecies of “woes, lamentations, mourning, portents dire.” The old prophecy is reconfirmed, and Oedipus, highly upset, proceeds on his journey.
At a crossroads, however, he means a colt-drawn car with a man sitting in it. The man and his servants threaten and abuse Oedipus, and he, in turn, strikes the driver. As the car passes, the man inside hits Oedipus on the head with a “double-pointed goad.” Oedipus immediately retaliates, striking the man in the car with his staff so hard that the man flies out and hits the ground dead. Oedipus then finishes the job and kills the rest of the party.
Little does Oedipus know, though, that the man in the car is none other than Laius, his very own biological father. With one burst of temper, Oedipus has fulfilled half the dreadful prophecy.