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In Defense of King Oedipus Essay

Brief Summary

The story of the Oedipus the King revolves on the tragic fate that Oedipus, the protagonist, has. Oedipus is the son of King Laius of Thebes and Queen Jocasta. The story started when a priest of Apollo prophesized that the king of Thebes, who was King Laius, would be killed by his own son. Upon learning the oracle, the royal couple had decided to get rid of the infant Oedipus. However, Oedipus had survived death and grew up with Merope and Polybus whom he assumed to be his parents. Towards the end, the story illustrated how the unbendable decree of Fate made a very tragic finish.

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Criticisms against the Plot of the Story

Throughout the history of literature, the story of Oedipus the King has been receiving contentions from different individuals who wish to inquire on the plot and spectacles of the very story. Throughout the tale, not only one literary scholar had tried to fix the plot of the story given the idea that Oedipus, though seen as a hero by others, was charged of patricide and incest. How could such a protagonist be accused of such things? In effect many had attempted to lay down arguments that would defend Oedipus for the alleged offenses that he did.

Defending Oedipus:

Lacks Empirical Evidence

            As an initial argument, how sure Oedipus and the people who heard the declarations of the witnesses that it was really Oedipus who killed his father? There was no strong proof that it was really Oedipus who used his hands to kill Laius. Another thing was that there were different versions of the story of the murder of the king Laius. While Jocasta was informed that there was this survivor who came and said that it was Oedipus who killed Laius, Oedipus declared that he killed all that was in the incident and that no one survived it. It could be the case that someone had just bribed the witness to say that it was Oedipus who killed the former king. Thus, there is still an imprecise account of the tragedy.

Fate and Its Verdict

            In the same manner, Fate or Destiny is that which is responsible for all what happened on Oedipus and his father and mother’s unfortunate deaths. Since the beginning of the story, the Fate had already decreed what will happen to each of character. Oedipus would cause the death of his father and would mate with his mother. Likewise, his father Laius would be killed by his own son who is Oedipus himself. Jocasta’s destiny was not really revealed to her but was only revealed to Oedipus.

Upon all these things, it could be argued that whatever each of the character does, no one from them could be able to escape what Destiny had already pronounce. It is noteworthy to include in this defense argument that such fate had been judged even before Oedipus was born thus making him innocent for something which whatever he does or whatever others do could not be altered at all.


Regarding the death of his biological father, the former King of Thebes, Laius, their fight was battled in a means which was common to all other fights during that age (as the story suggested). In the first place, if King Laius was not killed by Oedipus, it could be the reverse that King Laius might have killed Oedipus. By this interpretation, Oedipus might have appealed before the trial that he just defended himself against an enemy. Thus he was not really guilty of such alleged murder of his own father.

Proof of Mens Rea or Guilty Mind

             Another point is that Oedipus was not really guilty of patricide and incest. Employing the principle of mens rea or the proof of a guilty mind, Oedipus was not guilty at all for the reason that he did not know that it was his father whom he killed.

The same thing with his erotic relationship with his mother Jocasta in which he did not have the knowledge that she was no less than her own mother. All that could be blame was Fate who betrayed all of them.

            Oedipus could be charged of killing a person, for he truly killed Laius (as far as the traditional interpretation of the story suggested). On the other hand, such act could not really be considered a patricide because he did not know that the one he killed was his own father. He could only be charged of murder (as far as the principle of mens rea is concerned).

Analysis and Conclusion

In a deep analysis, the only fault of Oedipus was that he lacked knowledge about his true family. If it happened that he knew it, he would not have killed his father Laius; or have mated with his mother Jocasta. This character of Oedipus was seen when he chose to leave his adopted parents when he learned about the prophecy. It only showed how he would refuse to kill his own father and mate with his own mother if ever he had given the knowledge about his biological parents. Thus King Oedipus was not guilty of patricide and incest at all.

To end this paper, the story of the Oedipus the King had really presented an embodiment of a great tragedy which involved a family. In defense of the King Oedipus on the charges raised against him, which were patricide and incest, Oedipus was not even proven to be the true killer of his father.

Lastly, the trial, if ever such would be conducted to convict Oedipus, would not condemn Oedipus as having committed both patricide and incest for the reason that he had no knowledge about who King Laius and Queen Jocasta were before he killed the former and before he married the latter. Therefore, Oedipus was innocent of patricide and incest.


Sophocles. (2006). Oedipus the King. Filiquarian Publishing, LLC.

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