Antigone, Oedipus the King Comparison Essay
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Are people truly responsible for their actions? This question has puzzled humanity throughout history. Over the centuries, people have pondered the influence of divine or diabolical power, environment, genetics, even entertainment, as determining how free any individual is in making moral choices.
The ancient Greeks acknowledged the role of Fate as a reality outside the individual that shaped and determined human life. In modern times, the concept of Fate has developed the misty halo of romantic destiny, but for the ancient Greeks, Fate represented a terrifying, unstoppable force.
Fate was the will of the gods — an unopposable reality ritually revealed by the oracle at Delphi, who spoke for Apollo himself in mysterious pronouncements. The promise of prophecy drew many, but these messages usually offered the questioner incomplete, maddeningly evasive answers that both illuminated and darkened life's path. One famous revelation at Delphi offered a general the tantalizing prophesy that a great victory would be won if he advanced on his enemy. The oracle, however, did not specify to whom the victory would go.
By the fifth century, B.C., Athenians frankly questioned the power of the oracle to convey the will of the gods. Philosophers such as Socrates opened rational debate on the nature of moral choices and the role of the gods in human affairs. Slowly, the belief in a human being's ability to reason and to choose gained greater acceptance in a culture long devoted to the rituals of augury and prophecy. Socrates helped to create the Golden Age with his philosophical questioning, but Athens still insisted on the proprieties of tradition surrounding the gods and Fate, and the city condemned the philosopher to death for impiety.
Judging from his plays, Sophocles took a conservative view on...