Over the years, there has been a raging debate on who really caused the downfall and subsequent destruction of King Oedipus. Some scholars believe that Oedipus’ pride and arrogance brought his destruction while on the other hand others claim that Jocasta was responsible for destroying everyone and everything.
Despite the different approaches taken by scholars on the matter, one thing that emerges clearly throughout the play is that Oedipus brought about his own downfall. His arrogance and high headedness clearly emerges as the genesis of all his woes. (Sophocles)
Right from the start, there is rumor that Polybus the Corinthian king is not Oedipus father. When this rumor gets to Oedipus, he confronts his parents who do not appropriately answer his question. Oedipus then decides to approach the Delphic Oracle to seek an answer to his question.
Even the Oracle does not answer Oedipus’ question but instead tells him that he will marry his own mother and cause the death of his father. Instead of heeding the oracle, Oedipus’ pride leads him to think that he can avert this tragic fate. While trying to flee from his destined fate, he ends up killing King Laius who is his own father.
His journey ends in the Thebes Kingdom where Oedipus eliminates the beastly Sphinx and consequently solves the complex riddle of a form that walks on all fours early in the day, on two’s by midday and on threes by sunset.
In recognition of this achievement, the Theban’s appoint him to take over the vacant throne left behind by the demise of King Laius. By accepting this offer, Oedipus agrees to marry the widowed queen who in reality is her mother, Jocasta. It is clear that Jocasta does not play any role in any of these events but in reality, they are Oedipus’ own makings.
Soon after this, a plague rages throughout the Theban land leaving everyone in distress. This causes Oedipus to send his brother-in-law, Creon to seek why the city is experiencing the plague. The Oracle at Delphi reveals that the plague in the land is caused by the unavenged death of King Laius.
Against the people’s wishes to first consult prophet Tiresius, Oedipus goes ahead to pronounce a harsh punishment against the responsible person. Even after Tiresius is consulted, he advises that the matter should be left to rest. However, Oedipus keeps pressurizing him to a point where Tiresius gives an ominous prophecy for Oedipus.
By this time, Oedipus has already declared that Creon is a traitor who has to die. Queen Jocasta intervenes to bring calm between her brother and husband. Upon learning of the feud between them, Jocasta assures Oedipus that he has nothing to worry about since her son was killed in infancy and there is no way he could have been the cause of the Kings death.
At this point, Oedipus learns that the king had indeed been killed at exactly the same spot where years earlier he had killed a man who had blocked his way. As the events unfold and Jocasta senses that Oedipus is indeed her son, she begs him to drop the matter but he decides to have none of this. This leads to the death of Jocasta and subsequent banishment of Oedipus from the kingdom.
From the account of events, it is clear that Oedipus woes began way before Jocasta came on the scene. Most of the things that Oedipus went through were actually caused by his pride and arrogance something that led him to disregard the oracles and the people’s advice. It is therefore only fair to conclude that Jocasta was nothing but a bystander who tried to control things from getting out of hand.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King: The Play in Focus, 2010. Web. 20 Sep. 2010.