Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus resembles a riddle. Scholars and readers have debated the guilt or innocence of Oedipus for decades. On one hand, some scholars argue that Oedipus is an innocent victim of circumstances. On the other hand, other scholars argue that Oedipus is culpable and had an inability to control his anger. After a consideration of the critics and a careful examination of the play, I have come to a conclusion that Oedipus is innocent of the crime of killing his father and marrying his mother.
Most people believe that there is only one simple answer. The simple answer is that Oedipus is guilty of killing the king and incest with his mother. Readers argue that Oedipus is certainly guilty and the choice was definitely his to sleep with an elderly woman and to kill an elderly man. Firstly, Oedipus is a guilty man, and he discovers that the guilty man he that he was looking for is him all along. Many readers point out that Oedipus admits his guilt when the truth was showed. Oedipus’s culpability led to his downfall. Oedipus only blinded himself because he comes to learn that he truly did bring ruin to the city of Thebes, this feeling was nothing but guilt.
Many readers feel that he did not think about his decisions before he decided to make think. It is a fact that Oedipus did not know the truth, but he did get many fair warnings. After hearing a rumor that the King and Queen of Corinth were not his biological parents, a prophecy that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother he should have stayed with his foster parents to continue avoiding what he did not want to happen.
Oedipus was well aware that any time he used deadly force against an older man, it was a major risk. Also, he knew that it was a major risk of incest any time he slept with an older woman. Knowing the risks, many say that Oedipus could have just backed down at the crossroads. He also did not have to marry Jocasta. These were all his choices that he made on his own.
Contrary to those scholars who argue that Oedipus is guilty, I would like to explain how evidence of the play shows that he is innocent. Oedipus might have suffered at the crossroads. “A concept of recklessness requires not only a substantial risk, but also an unjustifiable risk. It’s also possible that Oedipus would have suffered dishonor by refusing the opportunity to step into the position of the dead King Laius” Oedipus did not know anything about his past, this is why is can not be considered as a murderer. Oedipus did not willingly committed murder.. Oedipus truly did not know that King Laius was his father and that Jocasta was his mother. After finding out that he was adopted and hearing about the prophecy that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus fled town and ended up in Thebes. He did not know King Laius and Jocasta, his biological mother and father, were king and queen of Thebes.
Oedipus was destined for the tragic altercations he encountered.. Others say he never once prayed to the Gods to change his fate. But it was believed that no matter where he tried to go he could not avoid this. Once Oedipus reached the outside of Thebes he meets King Laius at the crossroads. This is when King Laius and his men start a battle and Oedipus kills the man who really is his father. With this being said, the fact that King Laius and his men lost is not the fault of Oedipus.
Scholars say King Laius and his men wanted to discipline Oedipus for not showing honor towards a king. But because Oedipus was also up of royalty, he wanted respect in return from King Laius and his men. Both felt as if the other owed respect but King Laius and his men felt they were entitled to more and provoked Oedipus and he retaliated. King Laius and his men reacted first as the driver hit first from the chariot. Oedipus reacted in defense and feared for his life as well as his honor causing him to kill King Laius, the man who turns out to be his birth father.
Though Oedipus had defeated his father, the King of Thebes, he still could not enter the town of Thebes. There was a sphinx on the outside of Thebes who would not allow anyone to pass by unless one correctly solves the riddle she posde. If Oedipus fails to answer this riddle correctly, he will be put to his misery, or in other words, killed by the Sphinx. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly this meant that the Sphinx had to kill herself. Oedipus freed the kingdom of the city of Thebes and was also rewarded King Laius’ wife Jocasta, who it was in actuality, his biological mother.
Fast forward years after Oedipus had married Jocasta and had four children a messenger arrives with an announcement that Oedipus is not the son of Polybus, his foster dad. Before Oedipus realizes who he is, Jocasta realizes that Oedipus is her biological son and she can not face the truth. Jocasta always believed that her son was dead. Not being able to bear the horrifying news, Jocasta hangs herself, and Oedipus stabs out his own eyes. Oedipus was old and broken and had nothing left. His only daughter, Antigone, was all he had left.
Oedipus is an innocent man who did not do anything bad ,but because he felt bad about what he did this is how others looked at him his Oedipus never wanted the crimes he “committed” to happen. In fact, he tried to change his given fate as much as possible. As much as Oedipus tried to run away and avoid his fate, he truly believed that there was no way to stop the prophecy no matter what actions were taken. Oedipus spent most of his life ruling for his people. Oedipus was looked at as a hero, the one that everyone looked to in a time of need. In this case the good, surely did outweigh the bad. When it came to killing his father, Oedipus reacted as any other would and in defense for himself.
After thoroughly researching and careful examination of the play, I have come to a conclusion that Oedipus is innocent. Oedipus did not want his fate to be his destiny. He wanted to be an honest king and savior of his people. Oedipus felt as if he had to do for others as he would want for himself. Oedipus only ran away to Thebes for one reason. He only wanted to prevent this humiliation of wedding his mother and killing his father. He always wanted to be true and wanted to be looked at with respect. “Oedipus was such a man; one that had been warned of the repercussions of his actions, but freely sought truth even when the consequences were destined to destroy him.” Oedipus did not try to portray as a victim.
Eventually, he took full responsibility for his life. His responsibility truly showed the innocence of his actions. In conclusion, Oedipus displayed his greatness and innocence by not relying on his fate. After doing research, it is surely unreasonable to portray Oedipus as a guilty man. Though I have previously stated why many see Oedipus guilty of the crimes he committed, he truly had no idea he was committing them. He did not know that Laius was the king or that Jocasta was his mother.
His innocence is obvious. He does what he felt needed to be done and what any other person would have done. Oedipus did act harshly against himself. Readers feel this is only because he did not know what he was getting involved in before he went to Thebes. He was trying to avoid his fate but this was not possible. Him taking out his own sight showed his true feelings. He determined his own punishment because he was filled with horror. Oedipus did not want to go on with his life and see his children who were also his siblings. He did not want to go on with his life to see the people he ruled.
Oedipus did not want to look at these ideas and he saw his honor as his guide. Oedipus still honored the people he ruled and the mother and father that he knew, as well as the wife that he married and the children that they had.” Fate was an important part of the Greek belief system. The inescapability of fate is the message of the play, not the guilt or innocence of its main character.”