The debate of whether humans are guided by fate or free will is a heated topic that is discussed. Throughout the examples of famous greek and english plays, it is evident that the human life is governed by fate, rather than free will.
In Oedipus the King, one of Sophocles’ most popular plays, Sophocles clearly depicts the Greek’s popular belief that fate will control a man’s life despite of man’s free will. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held responsible for his own actions. Throughout Oedipus the King, the concept of fate and free will both play an essential part in Oedipus’ destruction. Destined to marry his mother and murder his father, Oedipus was partly guided by fate. The prophecy from the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, was undeniable and would inevitably come to pass. On the subject of free will, Oedipus’ actions, temper, impulsive nature, and hubris along with his flawed judgment, otherwise known as his hamartia all contributed to his ultimate downfall. Oedipus believed that he could overcome the gods, but in fact, his every action moved him closer to his destiny. Upon revealing the truth of his birth from the shepherd, Oedipus cries out, “O god all come true, all burst to light! O light now let me look my last on you! I stand revealed at last cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands.” (631). Oedipus now knew that his fate had indeed come to pass, and feels cursed by it. Due to the crimes he committed, Oedipus uses his free will to punish himself by stabbing his eyes with one of Jocasta’s brooches. Overall, Oedipus achieves his foremost sin when he attempts to raise himself to the level of the gods by trying to escape his fate. Oedipus accepts full responsibility for his acts and knows that he must be punished for his sin, therefore leading to his tragic fate to be legitimate.
Continuing further, fate versus free will can also be shown through the famous “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. One reasons why fate plays a big role is that the play begins by hinting that Romeo and Juliet will be affected by fate. The chorus begins the play by giving the general idea of the story, and explains to the audience that Romeo and Juliet are doomed from the start. The chorus reveals “From the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.” (Prologue, 5-6). The chorus says that the two children of rivaled families are born to love each other and die by suicide. The quote shows what fate already has in store for them before they are born. Additionally, the revealing also shows that the two lovers are born into families that hold a bitter and hateful grudge with each other. Their “star-crossed” destiny shows that their fate has given them an unlucky place in life. However, although free will is not a essential part of this play, it is still shown through many scenes. In the beginning of the play, Romeo was in love with Rosaline but when Romeo goes to the Capulet’s party uninvited, he uses his free will. Furthermore, free will is also shown when Romeo and Juliet decide to marry each other without anyone else knowing, but the consequences that then occur are fated.
Evidently, many famous and popular plays that are known to the 21st century generation all include the topic of fate versus free will. However, in both examples, fate is emphasized more compared to free-will, displaying that indeed fate governs the human life while free will plays a very small role.
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