A classic theme in almost every ancient playor writing is the conflict between fate and free will. This leads me toquestion 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 meantto be in life. You cannot run from it, you cannot escape it. No matter how muchyou try to change your life in order to alter your fate you cannot do it, it’sthat simple. Free will is on theopposite end of the spectrum where you control your own destiny. You are incontrol of the roads you take and the choices you make, instead of havingsomething controlling you. InOedipus, 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 hiswife Jocaste. After learning this they sent their son, Oedipus, to an island wherehe was meant to die. Unknowingly to them, he was rescued by a shepherd. Aftersaving him, the shepherd gave Oedipus to the King and Queen of Corinth. Yearslater a drunken man made a comment to Oedipus that he was not really the son ofKing Polybus and Queen Merope. Oedipus visited the Oracle soon after and wastold the same story that his real father had heard many years earlier.
Again,the story went as he would be the cause of his father’s death and would marryhis mother. Once he learns this he leaves Corinth to avoid the oracle comingtrue. On the way from Corinth he comes across a man on a highway and is forcedto get off the road and he eventually kills the man not knowing it was KingLaius. Later, Oedipus does indeed wed his mother and has children with her.
Thestory comes to an end when the truth is finally revealed by the one man who hadsurvived Oedipus’ attack on his father. This lead to Jocaste’s suicide and theblinding of Oedipus. Asit 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 rightfullycame from… he ended up in the right village at the right time to kill hisfather and wed his own biological mother just as the Oracle has said he would.
Fate will have its way no matter what lengthsyou (or other people) go to save you from it and that is a perfect example ofit. The irony of this story was that Oedipus thought he could escape his fatewhen in fact, he fulfilled it without even knowing. InShakespeare’s Hamlet, his character is viewed as being “insane” by the othercharacters due to the conflict he is having to deal with mentally. Uponreturning 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 Hamletis 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 ofplayers perform the play The Murder ofGonzago but with some added scenes that would depict the murder of Hamletsenior. While the play was goingon Hamlet had Horatio watch his uncle Claudius to see if he had any reaction tothat scene.
Hamlet was not surprised when his predictions of Claudius cametrue. Hamlet had become so vengeful, all emotions stemming from his father’sdeath, that he didn’t just kill Claudius, but also four other men he knew. Hekilled Polonius who was hiding behind a curtain listening to his conversationwith his mother by accident thinking it was his uncle. His friends Rosencrantzand Guildenstern were killed in England after he replaced his death order fromhis uncle with one for the men carrying the message of the order.
Laertes is killedby Hamlet with a poisoned sword and a few of his dying words were that Hamlet’smother’s death is by Claudius’ hands. Claudius had poisoned a drink that wasmeant for Hamlet, but Gertrude drank it instead. Thisenraged Hamlet to the point where he stabbed his uncle with the poisoned swordand forced the poisoned drink down Claudius’ throat. Eventually, Hamlet isdriven to poison himself to die along with everyone he had loved. His lastwords were for the throne to be passed to Prince Fortinbras and that all theevents that led to this to be explained by his dear friend Horatio.
Hamlet didbelieve in fate, but he also believed that free will could determine your fateas well. He struggled with finding the median between exercising his own freewill and the fate that ultimately governed his life.