The aim of this essay is to discussthe themes of Free will and Fate within Medea and Oedipus the King.
Free will,a noun meaning “…the apparent humanability to make choices that are not externally determined.”(Collinsdictionary 2017) Fate, also a noun meaning “Thedevelopment of events outside a person’s control, regarded as predetermined bya supernatural power.” (English, Oxford dictionary 2017) Within the plays thesethemes are crucial due to the fact that they allow understanding of both centralcharacters which influence and control both protagonists throughout. Theargument of Free will in Medea, and Fate within Oedipus the King will be arguedfor, taking into account Euripides, Sophocles and the socio-historic elements. It can be said that Medea has Freewill throughout the play. Firstly, we begin to understand Medea’s circumstance;her husband, Jason, has committed adultery and her family has beenmetaphorically taken away as Jason’s new wife Glauce is daughter to King Creon,and Medea’s family have lost their status. She states “I spit on him. I’ll see him die, him and that girl- I’ll seethem in pieces on the floor.
” (Euripides 2014) From this we can understandthat Medea has set her mind on revenge and is willing to act upon it. We learnthat her choices, if acted upon will have a gruesome affect. At this stage wecan suspect an irrational behaviour due to Jason’s neglect as a husband.
Butthis idea is crushed however; “My ownbrother cut to bits-for this?” (Euripides 2014) It is understood that Medeais capable of murder as she previously murdered her brother. Her killerinstincts are evident and that she has the ability to not only kill, but tomurder blood for her personal gain, in this case, personal satisfaction. Medea’sdastardly scheme is precise and clear “…agolden crown. Soon as such pretties touch her flesh, she dies, and all whotouch her die as well.” (Euripides 2014) It is evident Medea has chosen her ways ofrevenge, and they are successful. Medea then chooses a gruesome manor to conducther will even further. The revenge she seeks reflects the nature of her character,as the acts are specifically chosen to inflict the most pain and destruction onher husband. “Eyes rolling, blood suckedfrom her face, she fell to the ground in agony.
” (Euripides 2014) We can see that Medea’s actionsand plans are successful and that her will is effectively carried out; to Jason-and the surrounding people who happen to fall part of Medea’s bloodshed, displayingthe power she possesses as a women. On the other hand, it can be viewedthat Medea is forced into her situation due to her circumstances, without anyinfluence and ultimately as the victim.”Now my lady is lost.”, “My lord turns traitor: betrays his children, playsMedea false”, “Medea’s out. Stripped of her place” (Euripides 2014) We cansee that Medea has been neglected by her husband, taking away her life, nowleaving her without station, or position.
She confesses “My lovely life is lost, I want to die. He was everything to me” (Euripides2014) Medea’s love for Jason states that she is the victim within the play and thather acts of revenge, are just; and can be seen as her only option of survival,due to her husband’s actions out of her control, and therefore has no free will.It can be said that Euripides did notintend for Medea to be viewed as a victim, but a women with an agenda ofvengeance. A woman who skilfully planned and plotted against her formerhusband, and their children which highlights the importance of free will.
InAncient Greece men were to be seen as the dominant figure in society and inmarriage. Marriage for position of place was seen in a positive manor. “To marry the Kings daughter? I call itluck!” (Euripides 2014) Jason’s desire to obtain a higher position insociety and power was only natural for a male in that era, only thinking ofhimself. He states “you think I tired ofyou, I lusted for younger flesh. You’re wrong.
I don’t want her;” (Euripides2014) Jason’s confession, highlights that he does not truthfully love his newbride, but the marriage is a way of progression only, due to his new bridesroyal position. This makes Medea’s actions more horrific to deny the male of aroyal position. A modern audience’s perception may view her to be a victim – butthe view of the past sees women who commit vengeful acts against a man who isadvancing in society for the goodness of his childrenJ1 , to be criminal. The illegality ofpast society and the male dominated audience aware of the capability of womenwhen neglected, just never acted upon or made the women aware these eventscould take place.A strong viewpoint is that Oedipus iscontrolled by fate alone.
The external forces of religion and the supernatural,in the forms of oracles and prophecies control his life throughout thistragedy. Firstly, a prophecy dictates that Oedipus’ father should abandon hisroyal son. Secondly, also controlling Oedipus to leave his adoptive home afterhe hears, that he would kill his father and have an incestuous relationshipwith his mother, highlighting the power of prophecy. This informs his choice ofleaving, proving the high dominance of religion, fate and supernatural. TheOracle and the Prophet Teiresias are significant figures within society, havinga higher knowledge of the Gods.
Creon states “It was bloodshed, the oracle says, that whipped up this storm that isdestroying us.” (Sophocles 2013)Teiresias states “You are the unclean thing: The dirt that breads disease.” (Sophocles2013) The prophecy refers to the incestuous marriage, in which are listened tooby Creon, Oedipus and members of high society. Highlighting that Fate, throughreligion dominates all. When Oedipus understands the events, his realisationleads to his self-punishment and exile “Apollothe God, His power determined my agony!” (Sophocles 2013) his action is areaction to what has happened, his solution to his life at the mercy of theGods.
On the other hand Oedipus can be seento have free will. He is ultimately a King, an intelligent man and an effectivepublic communicator. He is able to reassure and tackle issues, this is seenbefore Oedipus becomes king, when he eliminates the threat of the Sphinx bysolving the riddle. Is this due to his intellect? Or is it fate at work,controlling the course of events? As a ruler he dictates and uses his power forthe greater good of the nation. He states “we’llshine a fresh light into every corner of the whole dark and musty business.
Iam determined” (Sophocles 2013) He uses his power as King throughout, as heattempts to find the truth and he uses aggressive authority to do this “If you won’t speak willingly, you’ll beforced to speak.” (Sophocles 2013). This highlights that Oedipus obtainsthe information he wants by force, choosing to ignore all pleas of silence. Heis acting for the goodness of his people and we can see he has control over hissituations. However, the theme of religion can be denied as the Oracle ofApollo and the Prophet Teiresias are people prone to mistakes, not understandingthe Gods will fully. Jocasta states “Noone can forecast the future.
I know what I am talking about, from personalexperience.” (Sophocles 2013) Butthis is wrong as Laius was in fact killed by his son Oedipus as the prophecyforetold showing high power and fate.In the time of Sophocles, religion wasa highly dominant factor in the vast majority of lives. This can aid theargument that Oedipus was controlled by fate throughout due to the relationshipof religion in the lives of the audience at the time. “In ancient Greece theviewing of a tragedy or comedy was not only a form of entertainment andeducation but also a religious standpoint” (Sophocles 2013) Oedipus waspresented to audiences at the theatre of Dionysus, during the festival, “Dionysus, god of fertility, wine andtheatre” (Sophocles 2013)ultimately showing that religion held a significant place within society, andthe religious conflict and control that Oedipus presents would have had a greateffect on audience members. This further indicates that Sophocles stresses theimportance religion in the form of fate on his characters to express theimportance of religious conformity and structure.Overall it can be viewed that Medeahas free will and Oedipus is controlled by fate.
This can be seen as a validargument due to the running themes of religion and politics in the time periodwhich had great influence on the lives of the audience and the authors writing.These features control the characters as the original writers intended, onlymodern perceptions of the characters, alter opinions due to contemporaryviewpoints. J1Alsoher children