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Oedipus Tyrannus

by Sophocles

genre: classics, play


A blind prophet predicts that a son will kill his father and marry his mother. After running from this fate, Oedipus realizes that the boy is him.


Why I Chose the Book

I needed something short, preferably something I’ve read before. I found this book with my uncle’s things that I still haven’t unpacked. I thought it was one of his, but turned out it was mine from high school.

Initial thoughts

It’s amazing how memory works. I knew the story well. After the premonition, his parents try to have him killed. They leave the task to someone else, so the kid lives. The adopted parents don’t tell Oedipus that he’s adopted, so he runs away from home thinking he’s preventing the premonition. In doing so, he kills his birth father and marries his mother.

I forgot it was a play.

Final Thoughts

Back in high school, I had an argument with the teacher about Fate. The Greeks saw Fate as being inescapable. Look at Oedipus, his parents tried to kill him, he tried to run away, but he couldn’t escape his fate. I fought vehemently that he could have gone through life not killing people. Even if he accidentally killed his father and that part was unavoidable, he could have remained unwed or married a younger woman. He did not do everything in his power to avoid this coming to fruition.

My other complaint about the Greek understanding of Fate was that people can’t be held accountable for their actions. How can you punish someone for doing something that they couldn’t have not done?

Now I understand a little better. Omniscience and free will can coexist. Fate or God or whatever it is you believe in can know what you will choose without taking away your choice. If given the opportunity to go sky diving, I will always decline. My parents know this, my boyfriend knows this. That doesn’t mean it’s not still my choice to decline skydiving. In the case of Oedipus, the gods knew that he would let his temper get the better of him, that he would lash out even though he had the choice to let it go.


If you’ve never read it before, you should. If you’ve read it, but it’s been several years or you read it as school required reading, read it again. You might see something new.


3 out of 5 stars

-Eliabeth Hawthorne

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