“Three Theban Plays” by Sophocles


Fatalism, Determinism and Free Will (Karma) are three different schools of philosophy. Fatalism is the doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable by Karma. Determinism holds that every event in nature is determined by prior/ coexisting events that includes Karma as well. Free Will propounds that human actions set the course of future.

Greeks are strong proponents of Fatalism as reflected in Aristotle’s philosophy and the fact that Greeks referred to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi to reveal the past and future.  Oedipus Myth is the epitome of this philosophy showcasing the helplessness of man wherein Oedipus, despite his efforts, could not escape his wretched fate of killing his father and marrying his mother.

The three plays of Sophocles trace the life of Oedipus, though not in the chronological order. Chronologically, the play “Oedipus the King traces” his life when he discovers that he had met his fate without cognizance and upon this knowledge his mother/ wife Jacosta kills herself and he gouges out his eyes and exiles himself. “Oedipus in Colonus” tells the story of his death in the holy place Colonus in Athens, ruled by the king Theses. “Antiogene” is a story of mass destruction when Oedipus’ sons Eteocles and Polyneices kill each other and his daughter Antiogene is killed by Creon, Jocasta’s brother when she defies his decree of not burying the body of her brother Polyneices.

Although I believe in the power of Human Spirit and actions and deny Fatalism, the myth does impress upon my mind as I can’t deny the fact that anyone can meet with such a cruel fate unknowingly.

Oedipus myth also figures in many books and I have come across the reference in two books that I’ve read so far. Kafka on the Shore is practically the modern metaphysical adaptation of the myth by Murakami. In the book Unbearable Lightness of Being the protagonist Thomas wrote an article citing the contrast between Oedipus who although had committed the grotesque sin unknowingly punishes himself upon the knowledge of his transgression and the members of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia who were harping that they had unknowingly given support to Russia and paved the way for the disastrous Prague Spring of 1940 and reveling in the joy of their partial victory.

I had googled the myth before but nothing can supplant reading the original text by Sophocles, one of the three great Greek tragedians in the 4th century BC, whose only 7 out of 127 works survive today. Definitely a must read!!

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A dreamer. An intellectual, spoiled by the world of literature trying to find sanity through traveling and expression through Visual Art and writing! Hope you like my expressions on this blog!!

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5 comments on ““Three Theban Plays” by Sophocles
  1. Pankaj says:

    Wowies. You are doing some hard core reading these days! Very nice review. It’s amazing a man all those thousands of years ago could deal with such complex themes.

    I see Fatalism, Determinism and Free Will a little differently though. Fatalism believes that the course of a human life is predetermined, based on his/her actions in a past lifetime (this pre-supposes the theory of Karma). Determinism holds that everything in the universe is determined by laws of physics and since we are also constituted of matter and energy interacting in exact accordance with these laws, choice is a human illusion. With sufficient knowledge of these laws, and enough computing power, we could chart the course of each particle through history and into the future. Free will holds choice is not an illusion, and are not mere puppets enacting the script already set by fatalism or determinism, and are free agents to choose and direct our lives.

  2. jasmine says:

    Read some 21st century literature after this!
    Should be like having ice cream after drinking hot dark coffee!
    🙂

  3. I’m reading Anna Karenina now, so its still warm milk!!

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