Oedipus the King by Sophocles as translated by Robert Fagles ventures into the mythical king of Thebes’ predestined life. Oedipus was prophesized from birth to inadvertently kill his own father and marry his own mother. Conflicts arise from the start of the story till the end. Conflict between freewill and destiny, of man and his fate as destined by the gods, is the most important aspect in Oedipus the King.
“I will tell you what I heard from the god. Apollo commands us- he was quite clear- “Drive the corruption from the land, don’t harbor it any longer, past all cure, don’t nurse it in your soil- root it out!” (Sarah Lawall, page 620). “”… Apollo commands us now- he could not be more clear, “Pay the killers back- whoever is responsible.” (Sarah Lawall, page 620).
Several conflicts between the characters in the story can also be observed. One of which includes the verbal battle between Tiresias, the blind prophet, and Oedipus. Moreover, an ego conflict occurs between the two characters as Oedipus rejects Tiresias’ assertion that he was the root of all the pestilence which is happening in their kingdom.
“Oh I’ll let loose, I have such fury in me- now I see it all. You helped hatch the plot, you did the work, yes, short of killing him with your own hands- and given eyes I’d say you did the killing single-handed!” (Sarah Lawall, page 627). “I charge you, then, submit to that decree you just laid down: from this day onward speak to no one, not these citizens, not myself. You are the curse, the corruption of the land!” (Sarah Lawall, page 627).
“True, it is not your fate to fall at my hands. Apollo is quite enough, and he will take some pains to work this out.” (Sarah Lawall, page 628). Oedipus the King sooner after accuses Creon, Jocasta’s brother, of treason, lighting fire to a conflict between the two. Oedipus thinks that Creon plotted to take the throne from him.
“My fellow-citizens, I hear King Oedipus levels terrible charges at me. I had to come. I resent it deeply… The damage I’d face from such accusation is nothing simple. No, there’s nothing worse: branded a traitor in the city, a traitor to all of you and my good friends.” (Sarah Lawall, page 631). On the latter parts in the story, Jocasta, the mother of Oedipus he unintentionally married, had rebuke Oedipus continuing search for truth.
- “What- give up now, with a clue like this? Fail to solve the mystery of my birth? Not for all the world!” (Sarah Lawall, page 645).
- “Stop- in the name of god, if you love your own life, call off this search! My suffering is enough.” (Sarah Lawall, page 645).
- “Aieeeee- man of agony- that is the only name I have for you, that, no other- ever, ever,ever!” (Sarah Lawall, page 645).
Oedipus the King signifies a strong conflict of whether the consequences of something are due to man’s own decision or of god’s given fate. In the point of view of the audience, we could say that the consequences are due to Oedipus’ own decisions. On the other hand, if viewed from the story of Oedipus the King, it was all due to his destiny. Man can never run away from the fate which was set by the gods.
“I’d never have come to this, my father’s murderer- never branded mother’s husband, all men see me now! Now, loathed by the gods, son of the mother I defiled coupling in my father’s bed, spawning lives in the loins that spawned my wretched life. What grief can crown this grief? It’s mine alone, my destiny- I am Oedipus!” (Sarah Lawall, page 653). Sarah Lawall, William G. Thalmann, Lee Patterson, Heather James, Patricia Meyer Spacks. Norton Anthology of Western Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005.