A classic theme in almost every ancient play
or writing is the conflict between fate and free will. This leads me to
question whether our lives are driven by fate or free will… Fate is your destiny,
it is the force from the earth/ universe that pulls you to where you are meant
to be in life. You cannot run from it, you cannot escape it. No matter how much
you try to change your life in order to alter your fate you cannot do it, it’s
that simple. Free will is on the
opposite end of the spectrum where you control your own destiny. You are in
control of the roads you take and the choices you make, instead of having
something controlling you.
Oedipus, the fate of people’s lives was told to them by the Oracle of Delphi.
The Oracle told King Laius that his son is destined to kill him and marry his
wife Jocaste. After learning this they sent their son, Oedipus, to an island where
he was meant to die. Unknowingly to them, he was rescued by a shepherd. After
saving him, the shepherd gave Oedipus to the King and Queen of Corinth. Years
later a drunken man made a comment to Oedipus that he was not really the son of
King Polybus and Queen Merope. Oedipus visited the Oracle soon after and was
told the same story that his real father had heard many years earlier.
the story went as he would be the cause of his father’s death and would marry
his mother. Once he learns this he leaves Corinth to avoid the oracle coming
true. On the way from Corinth he comes across a man on a highway and is forced
to get off the road and he eventually kills the man not knowing it was King
Laius. Later, Oedipus does indeed wed his mother and has children with her. The
story comes to an end when the truth is finally revealed by the one man who had
survived Oedipus’ attack on his father. This lead to Jocaste’s suicide and the
blinding of Oedipus.
it is evident, fate caught up with Oedipus! No matter what path he took in life,
no matter who he believed his parents were or what/where he believed he rightfully
came from… he ended up in the right village at the right time to kill his
father and wed his own biological mother just as the Oracle has said he would. Fate will have its way no matter what lengths
you (or other people) go to save you from it and that is a perfect example of
it. The irony of this story was that Oedipus thought he could escape his fate
when in fact, he fulfilled it without even knowing.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, his character is viewed as being “insane” by the other
characters due to the conflict he is having to deal with mentally. Upon
returning home to Denmark for his father’s funeral, he finds that his mother,
Gertrude, married his uncle after only two months since his father’s death.
Hamlet is then visited by his father’s ghost in the beginning of the play.
Hamlet is told that he, his father, was murdered by his own brother. But Hamlet
is struggling deep down within himself with whether or not to believe the ghost.
This drove him to test the sincerity of the ghost by having the troupe of
players perform the play The Murder of
Gonzago but with some added scenes that would depict the murder of Hamlet
While the play was going
on Hamlet had Horatio watch his uncle Claudius to see if he had any reaction to
that scene. Hamlet was not surprised when his predictions of Claudius came
true. Hamlet had become so vengeful, all emotions stemming from his father’s
death, that he didn’t just kill Claudius, but also four other men he knew. He
killed Polonius who was hiding behind a curtain listening to his conversation
with his mother by accident thinking it was his uncle. His friends Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern were killed in England after he replaced his death order from
his uncle with one for the men carrying the message of the order. Laertes is killed
by Hamlet with a poisoned sword and a few of his dying words were that Hamlet’s
mother’s death is by Claudius’ hands. Claudius had poisoned a drink that was
meant for Hamlet, but Gertrude drank it instead.
enraged Hamlet to the point where he stabbed his uncle with the poisoned sword
and forced the poisoned drink down Claudius’ throat. Eventually, Hamlet is
driven to poison himself to die along with everyone he had loved. His last
words were for the throne to be passed to Prince Fortinbras and that all the
events that led to this to be explained by his dear friend Horatio. Hamlet did
believe in fate, but he also believed that free will could determine your fate
as well. He struggled with finding the median between exercising his own free
will and the fate that ultimately governed his life.