English Writing 301
Misfortunes of Oedipus The King
The events that take place in Oedipus The King are brought by each character completing their roles in the fulfillment of the prophecies given by the gods. The first prophecy is that Laius would be murdered by his son. The second is that Oedipus will murder his father and sleep with his mother. Misfortunes such as the plague, the death of Jocasta, and Oedipus stabbing his own eyes follow the fulfillment of the prophecies. Although fate allows several characters to be in positions in which misfortune could be avoided, it is the decisions of Oedipus and Jocasta that are most crucial. Ironically for Jocasta and Oedipus, it is their awareness of these prophecies that influence their actions leading up to its fulfillment. Despite the impact other characters made on Oedipus and Jocasta and their decisions; Jocasta, Oedipus, and fate are most responsible for the misfortunes that occur in Thebes.
Several characters are detrimental in influencing the misfortunes involving Jocasta and Oedipus. One example is the shepherd who saved Oedipus as a child. If Oedipus was not saved by that shepherd, he would have died as a baby without getting the chance to kill Laius or to sleep with Jocasta. Another character that could have prevented misfortune is Teiresias. He plants the interest yet withholds the knowledge of the identity of Oedipus’s parents from him (Jebb 111). If Teiresias were to tell Oedipus who his parents were instead of answering in riddles, then Jocasta could have avoided suicide. They also could have been able to resolve the issue differently rather than Oedipus stabbing his eyes upon the death of his wife. Although interaction with characters such as the shepherd and Teiresias was vital for the misfortunes to happen, Oedipus and Jocasta are ultimately accountable. Oedipus and Jocasta’s constant denial of the truth is what leads them to more misfortune. Oedipus stubbornness to believe the truth is shown when he insults Teiresias upon being told he is the one who slayed Laius (Jebb 111). In doing so Teiresias does not tell him who his parents are and only answers in riddles. Oedipus struggles so hard to believe the truth that he accuses Creon and Teiresias of plotting against him. Oedipus and Jocasta also both deny the truth when they discuss the herald, the carriage, and other the details of how Laius was killed where three highways meet. He recognizes and acknowledges similarities in their stories, but insists on relying on the small difference in the story that Laius was killed by robbers to reinforce the thought of innocence. “If his story be found to tally with thine, I , at least shall stand clear of disaster… Thou was saying that he spoke of Laius as slain by robbers. If, then, he still speaks, as before, of several, I was not the slayer…” (Jebb 115).
Jocasta is a direct cause