Oedipus Rex… was quite the tragedy. Extraordinarily depressing, next to the blank word document that was my Plato Essay. Having read Antigone, I knew some of the background to Oedipus Rex, but reading the actual tragedy made me wonder… what do you do when the universe has already condemned you?
Oedipus was basically doomed from the start. The prophet’s prophecy… basically led to Oedipus running from his fate for his entire lie. An unenviable fate indeed, but one as he found out the hard way, he could not escape. Of course, this brings up the question of whether his actions created his fate, or whether fate was predetermined for Oedipus. To my opinion, it’s seems to vary from situation to situation within the text. Oedipus killing his father… SEEMED like an accident. It was Laius who struck out against Oedipus who chanced upon running into the king, but if Oedipus hadn’t run away in the first place, he might have never met Laius. To me though, it seems that the gods and fate are more to blame than Oedipus’s actions. If he hadn’t known and everything the prophecy predicted happened to him, then the answer would have been obvious, but Sophocles has written the play in such a way that in a sense, Oedipus’s attempt to know his destiny, led to his downfall.
Ignorance and whether ignorance is bliss is also a key factor in the play. Oedipus, despite his mother/wife Jocasta’s warnings and pleadings, was determined to seek out the shepherd. This eventually led to her killing herself, which can be seen as Oedipus driving his mother to death, though I’m more inclined to see Jocasta as being primarily responsible. If Oedipus just ignored his urge to find out the truth of his heritage… that could have changed things greatly, but then again, given the strange nature of fate within the text, it may not have changed anything. However, to my eyes, Oedipus’s confronting of the truth, eventually led to his downfall of blinding himself. So in a sense, Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex warns us that the truth, may cause more harm than good and it also make s a commentary on the nature of fate and destiny.