Fate, Free Will, and Prophecy in Greek Tragedy

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  • Created on: 24-05-19 09:42
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  • Fate and Free Will and Prophecies in Greek Tragedy
    • Oracle of Delphi fates Oedipus to marry his mother and kill his father
      • [Oedipus] 'You are fated to couple with your mother, you will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear to see-you will kill your father, the one who gave you life'
      • [Oedipus]    'I set out for Delphi and the god, and the god Apollo spurned me'
      • Despite Oedipus' attempts to avoid his fate, it came true. However it could be agued that his free will is what caused it to happen sooner
        • when Oedipus met Laius at the crossroads, his quick temper is what led him to killing him. not only did Oedipus kill Laius, but he killed all of his men which shows the extent of his bad temper
          • [Oedipus] 'I strike him in anger [...] I killed them all-every mother's son'
    • In the Bacchae, Tiresias and Cadmus warn Pentheus to worship Dionysus, but Pentheus harshly rejects them. Perhaps he was fated to be killed by Dionysus, or maybe it was  free will that caused his downfall.
      • [Cadmus] 'Even if this person is no god, as you say, Declare him one, Tell lie in a good cause!'
      • One of Tiresias' prophecies is that Dionysus will be great for Greece, but Pentheus is too stubborn to acknowledge this.
        • 'I cannot begin to tell you how great he will be in Greece'
    • Tiresias tells Pentheus that Dionysus is a prophet too, which should've convinced Pentheus to accept him, but it didn't
      • 'This god is also a prophet, for that which is Bacchic and manic has great prophetic power'
      • He explicitly warns Pentheus that his opinion is not correct and even draws a parallel between Dionysus and him to convince him to honour the god. Pentheus and Dionysus are similar because they both want to be honoured.
        • 'Take my advice [...] Do not be too sure that force dominates mankind'
          • 'If you have an opinion, and that opinion is weak, do not consider it wisdom'
            • subtle objection to sophistry
            • 'Accept the god in this country, and pour libations; become a bacchant and garland your head;
        • 'Think how you are delighted when crowds flock to your doors, and the city glorifies the name of Pentheus. So Dionysus rejoices in being honoured'
          • Tiresias mentions elements of Pentheus' nature to persuade him to accept the worship of Dionysus
    • Tiresias appears in Oedipus rex, he is reluctant to reveal Oedipus' fate as he knows it will cause havoc. However after being pressured by Oedipus he gives in.
      • 'I'd rather not cause pain for you or me'
      • 'you are the curse, the corruption of the land'
    • Dionysus reveals that the fate of Pentheus, Cadmus and Agave was already agreed by Zeus, presenting the idea that their free will was useless and they were fated for disaster.
      • [Dionysus] 'My father Zeus agreed to this long ago'
    • Pentheus' fate is sealed by Dionysus in the prologue
      • Pentheus, who now fights with gods-with me!-leaving me out of his sacrifices and making no mention of me in his prayers'
        • 'For this reason I will prove to him and to all the Thebans that I am a god'


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