Who is to blame for the tragedy, according to Sophocles? Who is responsible? Why?
I have an assignment to pretend I am a prosecuting attorney, and I need to accuse a character that I believe caused this tragedy. I would say the gods, but Sophocles must agree with my accusation, because I need to back it up with quotes from the play...
So, Athenian jurors and Judge Sophocles, let me sum up my argument by stating that my client, Sophocles, son of Laius, is not guilty of killing his father. Instead, believe it or not, I lay the blame for this crime at the feet of the gods themselves, because it was fate that brought about the death of Laius. Before my client was ever born, the gods, namely Apollo, had predicted that Laius would be killed by his son.
When my client heard Apollo's prophecy that he would murder his father, he "ran away from Corinth" (Ian Johnston translation). My client was trying to avoid angering the gods by killing another fellow human being. How was my client supposed to know that Polybus of Corinth was not his father? Polybus had never told my client anything other than that he was his father. My client "went to other lands, / so [he] would never see that prophecy fulfilled". Moreover, the man that my client thought was his father may be dead, but we have already heard testimony that my client was nowhere near Corinth when that happened and that he died from disease and "from old age." So, I submit that my client did not kill his father because the man who raised my client, the man who served as his father, died of natural causes.
As for Laius, this man forfeited the right be called my client's father when he allowed him to be left to die on Mount Cithaeron when he was an infant. What's more, Judge Sophocles, did you yourself not write that "If anyone claimed this [i.e., my client's fate to kill his father] came from some malevolent god, would he not be right?" In this, my client and I agree with you, Judge Sophocles. What happened to my client did come from some god who did not wish my client well.
Finally, we have also heard Jocasta's testimony that "For Apollo clearly said the man [Laius] would die at the hands of an infant born from me." I ask you, men of Athens and Judge Sophocles, who can avoid what Apollo has declared will come to pass? My client, as we have all heard, did his best to avoid harming the man whom he thought was his father, Polybus of Corinth. In this, my client was successful. We know that Polybus died of natural causes. As for Laius, this man forfeited the right to be called Oedipus' father when he tried to kill him when he was just an infant. Therefore, if my client did kill Laius, then he was an unwitting agent of the gods, sent to punish Laius for his wickedness in attempting to kill a defenseless child.
In sum, people don't kill people; fate kills people.