Oedipus The King: What was Oedipus’s Crime?

Introduction

The tragedy of Oedipus lies in the kings admirable search for truth and openness that meets with obstruction from those who would hide this truth and from his own figurative blindness to truth. This famous and historical play known was “” Oepidus Tyrannous by Sophocles has been a greatly debated work. Some scholars and also readers have argued and/or debated that Oedipus is innocence or guilty. Oedipus, the ruler of Thebes, murdered his father and married his mother. Such acts are almost always deemed unnatural and criminal; they are not tolerated within traditional society. A person who has committed these illegal acts of murder and incest would be considered a criminal, yet Sophocles’s character, Oedipus is not guilty of either crime. Upon considering what the possible answer to the question may be , the actions of other characters must be put into consideration also.

The outcome should not be solely based upon the actions of Oedipus. Every factor involved in the chain of events leading up to the death of King Laius and the marriage of Jocasta should be carefully looked over and thought about and considered. Prior to the birth of Oedipus, a prophecy was spoken over Laius , and his wife Jocasta. They were told of their son would one day be his fathers killer and would then marry his mother. In fear, King Laius and Queen Jocasta sent the baby Oedipus off with a slave to be killed . He was never killed , but rather was given to a childless King and queen which lovingly raised him.

Thomas Gould said that “” Oedipus is a tragedy of fate, the story of a man who is ruined by forces he cannot be expected to have understood or influenced. He also said “” Oedipus must be innocent of harboring any culpable desires, then; and yet it must be he, acting freely, who brought on the catastrophe. He doesn’t think it was the gods nor was it fate.

Philip W. Harsh said Oedipus is depicted as “”the hunter and the haunted, due to imagery depicted by the author, Sophocles.P. H. Vellacott refers to Oedipus as one of many, “”shrewd, responsible men, he even mentions that he is, “”in danger and looking for a way out. It is natural to assume Oedipus is guilty, according to N.van der Ben, even the chorus believed Oedipus to be guilty. Oedipus did what he could to avoid the prophecy, so he should not be considered guilty. He also believes that the God’s have already found him guilty regardless of what the chorus says, or believes. G. H. Gellie simply discusses how important the climax is and how the play takes a violent turn. In William Chase Greene’s work, he deeply explains in detail his beliefs on why Oedipus was not to be blamed single handedly for King Laius’ death.

When considering what the answer to the question shouldbe, the action of other characters must be put into consideration. The outcome should not be based upon the actions of Oedipus. It is argued that Oedipus is Guilty, however the information in this article will give reason to prove that he is innocent.

After careful reading and consideration of the play and several scholarly articles, it will be proven that Oedipus did not purposely intend on going down a negative path. The information given here will show that he is not an evil man whose only purpose is to rule and do as he pleases.

Main Body

Through the years, the main focus of the play “”Oedipus Tyrannus is always due to the belief that Oedipus is guilty or innocent. Oedipus is assumed guilty by some because of the series of unfortunate events which he had to undergo thateventually led him to become king of Thebes. Yes, he was informed that the King was killed before arriving but he made no connection that he had just recently killed him, says William Chase Green. King Laius and all but one of his men were indeed killed by Oedipus on his journey, but it is uncertain that he is guilty of cold blooded murder. In the play, when Oedipus discovers that he is responsible for the death of King Laius, he blinds himself. According to G.H. Gellie, “”Apollo’s direction and his own curses make his death or banishment necessary.This is argues to be a detail supporting the idea that Oedipus is guilty however; this only demonstrates how he feels. Oedipus had no way of knowing he would kill his father, because he left the city of Corinth to avoid killing the man he had known to be his father.

Many scholars do not consider investigating the actions of any other character in the play when determining whether or not Oedipus is truly guilty. Not many people have thought to blame King Laius himself. Yes, he left Baby Oedipus to die; however he did not eliminate the child himself. There is never a good reason to take the life of your own child, but if he had he would still be alive. Because Oedipus was not killed as an infant, he was able to fulfil the prophecy he had no knowledge of. King Laius and his men cause Oedipus to feel threatened upon running to him at the three-way cross roads and that caused him to lose his life at the hands of his own son. Oedipus acted out of self-defense and anger to save his own life. Charles Segal said it best him self,

“”We need not assume that the ode is explicitly accusing Oedipus of characteristically “”tyrannical”” crimes; rather, it states a condition of mortality, a contingent possibility of human life, that will prove to be true for Oedipus even though he may be legally innocent.

This possibility in fact touches one of the essential tragic elements, in the situation of Oedipus namely that it is possible to violate these remote laws in the aether and still be innocent of crime as defined by man-made laws before a human court.According to these words of Segal, Oedipus is innocent according to a court of law. King Laius has participated majorlyin his own death, so why should Oedipus be punished for attempting to save others and him self?

Oedipus did all he could to avoid fulfilling the prophecy. It is not his fault that everyone who contributed to raising him lied to him. Oedipus was not told the truth about his prophecy until it was too late. The Gods should be at fault because they gave him no direction to prevent Oedipus from killing his father and having children with his own mother. According to Alan H. Sommerstein, the Gods protected him when he was a baby, but what good is that going to do if they allow him to continue on the path that causes him to eventually disobey their beliefs.Charles Segal proves that Oedipus prays to Apollo, Zeus, and even Olympus several times. He should not be convicted for sleeping with his mother, for he did not know they had any blood relation. At any time during Oedipus’ life the Gods could have spoken to him in the form of an oracle, or even a profit.

Another circumstance not widely considered is that the Profit of Delphi could also be considered as a possible suspect. The Oracle, who informed the king known as Laius of the prophecy could also be to blame. If it were not for the profit or the oracle, the prophecy would not be known, and Oedipus would still be living with his father King Laius and his mother Jocasta. Yes, the purpose of profits is to inform people of the future; however, the do not always have to share the outcome. They especially do not have to share the prophecy of the cause of sending out the information can lead to the fulfillment of the vision. There would be no existence of his daughters Antigone and Ismene, also known as his sisters. When the prophecy was revealed it began a chain of events that eventually led to Oedipus fulfilling the vision. Again, this is not a fact widely discussed, therefore there is no scholarly article supporting this detail.

Of Course Oedipus fulfilled the prophecy, but were his actions intentional? He seemed to brag about killing when telling Jocasta about his murder before arriving in Thebes. His words could make him seem like a cold blooded murderer, but he his mind was not in the right place when the Laius and his men approached him. Oedipus did indeed cause an incest situation but marring and impregnating his mother but he did not intentionally do so. Oedipus had no way of knowing Jocasta was his mother. In order for him to fully become king he had to marry her so he did. Oedipus even made threats towards both Tiresias and Creon, however he never made good on following through with them. Oedipus blinded him self because of the way he felt upon realizing that he fulfilled the prophecy because he had brought plague upon his domain. This action does not prove him to be guilty.

Conclusion

It is important to keep an open mind when reading, watching, or listening to the play “”Oedipus Tyrannus, by Sophocles. Many who read it immediately pick guilty or innocent according to only Oedipus’ actions but it is important to consider the actions of all characters, especially those who contribute to the chain of events resulting in the outcome of this story. According to a court of law, Oedipus would be considered not guilty due to the fact that he responded under pressure in a life and death situation which we humans today consider “”self-defense. King Laius could be to blame for his own death due to the fact that he and his following men caused Oedipus to feel unsafe and in danger. If he had truly gotten rid of his child in the first place, the chain of events would not have resulted. The Gods protected him and continues to let him live when he was discarded as an infant, however, they made no attempt to lead him on the correct path, nor inform him of his situation. TheProfit of Delphi and the prophecy itself could even be to blame.There are many who could be proven the true reason Oedipus fulfilled the prophecy, but it is not his fault.

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