Mr. C. Stacey
English 121 AP
23 December 2011
Do You Really “Do What You Want”?
The battle versus fate and free will is a topic on which many Greek tragedians wrote. The events that take place in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex show an intrinsic relationship between man’s free will existing within the cosmic order, or fate. The Greeks believed this lead the universe in a unifying way. Both fate and free will play a key role in the eventual destruction of Oedipus; although Oedipus ends up being a victim to his fate, he was not necessarily controlled by it. It was said by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi that Oedipus was destined to kill his father, and marry his mother. Although Oedipus does everything in his free will to make this prophecy fail, fate wins in the end. His past actions were determined by fate, but the things that he did in Thebes were out of his own free will. This means that Oedipus, through his free willing search for truth, came to his demise in fulfilling the prophecy he was trying to avoid. Sophocles reveals this truth primarily through Jocasta’s strong faith in the power of free will, Oedipus’ hubristic attempt at avoiding fate, and through the use of dramatic irony.
In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus’ mother and wife, Jocasta, has a strong sense of faith in the ideology of free will. Sophocles includes this dynamic to reinforce the truth that fate will always be victorious over free will. Jocasta says: “You now, free yourself from these matters; /listen to me and learn why nothing mortal/can show you anything of prophecy.” (735-738). She says this to Oedipus when he begins to impugn his belief in free will, claiming that fate may be too powerful to escape. Jocasta is expressing her disbelief in fate and disclaiming the prophecies made by the “gods”. This is a strong statement of blasphemy considering she is the queen of Thebes. However, she ironically contributes to fate’s victory by foiling that statement with the details of the prophecy...