Oedipus Rex – Oedipus is Innocent Essay

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Because Oedipus knows nothing about the past of Thebes, he is not an assassin. Oedipus committed murder but unknowingly of who King Laius was. Oedipus honor was his claim against the murder. Had it been the other way around and Oedipus had lost the battle, King Laius alibi would have also been for reasons of honor: for reasons of royalty. Oedipus was royalty and knew it as well did King Laius. The main idea behind Oedipus innocence is this “royalty.” Regardless of either of their class standings a fight occurred and the one to start had been King Laius men, or group, the fact that they lost is not the fault of Oedipus. In other words, King Laius and his men wanted to discipline Oedipus for not showing honor towards a king. Yet, in return, Oedipus wanted respect in return from King Laius and his men. They were both rightfully due the same amount of respect yet King Laius and his men felt they were entitled to pass first. The first blow came from the driver of King Laius chariot. This shows how Oedipus reacted in defense and feared for his life as well as his honor. Oedipus is an innocent man whose fate was also his destiny. There was no way to stop the prophecy no matter what action was taken. Throughout his life he ruled for his people. He was looked at as a “mortal set apart to face lifes common issues and the trials, which the gods dispensed to men” (3). He was the hero, the one that everyone looked to in a time of need. It can be said of his case that the good should outweigh the bad. That Oedipus reacted as any other would. Though the prophecy is what he was running from, the prophecy is what he ran into. Oedipus did not want his fate to be his destiny. He wanted to be honestto be a savior. He wanted to be a rulerto do for others as he would want for himself. His honor was his destiny. As far as he knew he left from Corinth to prevent this humiliation of wedding his mother and killing his father. He wanted to be true and always be looked at with respect, even when he traveled. He told his people of Thebes how they “sufferbut not one among them suffers more than him” (4). Not one of them “grieves as much as he does alone” (4) He continues later on again to say “I sorrow more for them than for myself” (4). He feels every ones pain. He is a true leader one who puts his people before himself. One who understands what it is to be a ruler of a kingdom. His innocence is obvious. He does what needs to be done. Had he been guilty of murder or of any other crime he would not have gone through the process of finding the truth behind King Laius murder. He tells Creon “you will find me a firm ally, and together we shall exact vengeance for our land and for the godAnd with the help of God, we shall find success or ruin” (5) He knew what his duty was and that was what he wanted to follow. He needed to save thousands of people and Oedipus would go to any means to save them. This is an innocent person and a trustworthy King. “My words are uttered as a stranger to the act, a stranger to its tale”(7). He tells us that he cannot solve the “riddle the very skill that proved him great” (11). He cannot do it alone. Why is this? If he is so guilty of this crime and he is the “murderer that he seeks” then why does he go on with the search? (10). The reason is that he does not know that he has caused the grief for his people. He does not know that he is the murderer. “Ask what you wish. I am not the murderer.”, is what he uttered to Creon because he believed that he was not the murderer (14). The fault behind Oedipus fate lies partly on Apollo and on the prophecy that he was told. Had he been blind to that prophecy he would have remained in Corinth and ruled as a true ruler. He would not have wed his mother nor murdered his father. But why do these things happen to Oedipus? Why when he tries to be the best does he get the worst? His fate led him there. He was doomed to follow the prophecy at his birth. How can we blame Oedipus for committing murder when his father was the one who wanted Oedipus dead? King Laius wanted his son dead because he valued his own life before the life of his child. He listened to the prophecy and tried to go against the gods, he tried to prove fate wrong. And as we can see from both King Laius aspect and from Oedipus side their fate was the reality of the story. “Who are my parents?” were Oedipus words to Teiresias when he mentioned them to Oedipus (11). Though Oedipus wanted to know who the murderer of Laius was, he also came to realize that Teiresias knew something else that Oedipus wanted to hear. Oedipus knew there was something that caused Teiresias to say those things. He also knew that his position as a King was desired by many. This jealousy from some also caused Oedipus to look for facts before he just listened to one person. As Sheppard mentions of Oedipus innocence “the hero, when he stands revealed as the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother, feels himself utterly vile, polluted, and the polluter of all who have dealings with him” (191). He knows now that the threats he had made against the murderer originally are the threats that he now sees against himself. He told his people that he “shall not rest until he dispels the defilement” (5). The murderer “will be banished from the land. This man must be denied entrance into their homes” (8). Though he makes these threats and moreover he does this to help the people have the courage to find the murderer. When Oedipus is discovered as the murderer what can he do but follow the judgement he set for the murderer. Oedipus does act harshly against himself because he did not know what he was getting involved in before he went to Thebes. He was fleeing from his fate as he thought but actually he ran right into it. He took his own sight and felt he was now facing the “vile damnation” that he believed he deserved (8). He determined his own punishment, which seems wrong. Then again how could he go on with his life and see his children who were also his siblings? How could he look at the people he ruled or had ruled knowing he caused them grief he caused the plague on Thebes? He looked at these ideas and he saw his honor as his guide. He honored the people he ruled and the mother and father that he knew, as well as the wife that he married and the children she beared. He knew that he did commit a murder and that he did kill a King, his father. Oedipus is an innocent man who listened to a prophecy. “Ask what you wish. I am not the murderer” (14). Oedipus, until about the end, believed himself as innocent and that he was. “O God! Am I cursed and cannot see it?” (18). He didnt know where to turn was he being told the truth? He was but that wasnt what he wanted to hear for a few reasons. One he wanted proof that he did commit the murder. And second he wanted to know if the prophecy came true and learning the truth would get him there. The accusations against him where not as they seem. Yeshe did commit a murder on his way to Thebes, but who is to say that he was wrong? Who shall judge his lifes fate as his fault and his alone? Did the gods not hold some blame? Did Apollo not get the ball rolling by telling Jocasta and Laius what the future would bring them? Yes! That is the key to Oedipus innocence. His fate belonged in the hands of Apollo and Apollo let the secret out.


Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. Trans. Luci Berkowitz and Theodore F. Brunner. New York: Norton & Co. 1970: 3-18. Sheppard, J. T. The Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1920: xxic-xl.

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