| The Sphinx of Fate and Tragedy
G12 English Literature Class
Who is responsible for Oedipus’ tragedy? Oedipus himself and Jocasta blamed it on Apollo, people blamed it on Oedipus, I, however, believe that it is Laius’ responsibility of the tragedy of Oedipus. It is not a coincidence that Oedipus bumped into his father and accidently killed him. This sin has been cursed long before Oedipus was born.
It is believed that before Laius became the king of Thebes, Amphion and Zethus usurped the throne of Thebes. Laius ran away from Thebes and Pelops, the king of Pisa in Peloponnesus, took great care of him. Later on, however, Laius abducted and raped Pelops’ son, Chrysippus. Laius brought Chrysippus to Thebes, took the throne of Thebes, and married Jocasta (Laius 1 - Greek Mythology Link). Oracle from Delphi warned Laius that he must not have a son with his wife; otherwise, his son would marry his wife and kill him (The Oracle of Delphi to Laius 1. Euripides, Phoenician Women 20). Laius’ prurience, however, had triumphed over this warning and his wife had given birth of his son—Oedipus. Oedipus was then cursed since he was born and it was his fate that he would kill his father and marry his mother without him realizing (Sophocles 214). Without exception, he did accidentally kill his father and marry his mother, but he had never meant it; he never knew that the man he killed at the place named Cleft Way when he was on his way to Delphi was his father until he found out the truth and blinded himself.
By looking at the attempts of both Oedipus and Laius escaping from their fates, we could know that it is futile for people to avoid their prophecy because fate is inevitable. It is the decisions they made to stay away from their fate actually bring them even closer to their downfalls.
I believe that it is Laius who causes Oedipus’ tragedy. Laius raped and kidnapped the son of King Pelop, Chrysippus. This is a crime that infuriated and alarmed the gods. The reason that the gods cursed Laius, however, is not because of his sexuality, there are several examples of homosexuality in Ancient Greek such as Achilles and Patroclus; instead, it was because he abducted and raped Chrysippus, the son of the king of Pisa. Laius disobeyed Pelop and fought against the conventional rules, which was considered as “hybris”, the cause of a character’s ultimate downfall, according to the book Homosexuality in the Ancient World. His guilt had further affected and contributed to the tragedy of Oedipus. And what is ironic is that Laius was killed by Oedipus when Laius was on his way to Delphi to solve the prophecy (Homosexuality in the Ancient World 136).
Another reason that Laius was cursed by the gods is that he ignored the warning of oracle from Delphi not having any child because his own child would kill him and marry his wife. Nevertheless, his lust dominated his consciousness of being punished by the gods, he therefore made love with Jocasta and had Oedipus. Laius’ disobedience towards god’s warning had also exacerbated and made his curse come true.
Furthermore, Laius’ posterities are all damned by god because of Laius’ blunders. Oedipus was cursed to kill his father and marry his mother; Jocasta was cursed to marry his own son; Thebes was cursed with a disease for not solving who the murderer of Laius is; Oedipus’ daughters, Antigone and Ismene, were all cursed to have a tough life after Oedipus’ banishment; the sons of Oedipus were cursed for fighting over the throne of Thebes. Because of the several mistakes that Laius had made, the decedents of Laius are all fated to live under arduous and catastrophic lives.
Some said that it was Oedipus’ own pride, which causes his downfall. However, it is my belief that fate is inevitable. The moment that Oedipus was born, the fate of his life was already determined. Both Oedipus and Laius attempted to escape from their fate. Oedipus left Corinth in order to stay away from King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth, who he thought were his parents. Laius, on the other hand, exposed Oedipus on Mount Cithaeron with his ankles riveted and hung from a tree, but a shepherd discovered Oedipus and rescued him (Sophocles 212). Both of them did try to prevent fate from happening, but if it is meant to happen, it is unavoidable.
There is no one single factor that leads to Oedipus’ mishap. It is caused by a series of flaws; indeed, Oedipus did have certain pride that is a factor in his own tragedy, however, if Laius did not infuriate the gods previously, Oedipus’ pride would never have led him to such reverse of fortune. Laius kidnapped Chrysippus and disregarded the warning of the oracle had lead to the misfortunes of Oedipus and himself. Ultimately, it was Laius who is culpable of Oedipus’ tragedy.
- Sophocles, Sophocles The Complete Plays. Trans. Paul Roche. New American Library, New York, 2001
- The Complete Greek Tragedies, Volume 3: Euripides. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago. August 1, 1992.
- Parada, Carlos. "Laius 1 - Greek Mythology Link." Laius 1 - Greek Mythology Link. Carlos Parada and Maicar Förlag, 1997. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
- Dynes, Wayne R., Donaldson Stephen. Homosexuality in the Ancient World. Taylor & Francis, 1992. Homosexuality in the Ancient World- Google Books. 29th Sep 2014.