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First and foremost, one thing must be understood. The matter of Oedipus guilt is not whether or not he murdered his father and married his mother. These facts have been previously determined, as there is no evidence proving otherwise, and also as Oedipus himself admits guilt. What we are questioning in this matter is his culpability in his psychological downfall and of the tragic events that follow the initial crimes: Jocasta's suicide, the Black Death, and Oedipus wretchedness. The defense will first look at the contribution of each possible suspect / witness , and then defend Oedipus case. Note: for the purposes of this case, we will take the case in the context of ancient Greece, and agree on the existence of many gods that rule the earth, and that prophets and oracles are reliable sources.
First to be questioned are Laius and Jocasta. This couple learned from an oracle that their son would murder Laius and marry Jocasta. They attempted to thwart the gods plans and take matters into their own hands by giving the child to a shepherd, demanding that he kill the baby. Their fault lies in their arrogance to think that they could avoid their future. They were trying to avoid the truth of their lives. Furthermore, it was Laius rash anger that made him hit Oedipus on that fateful day when their paths crossed, resulting in retaliation from Oedipus.
Neither party could have known that the other was related to him. Therefore, Oedipus cannot be blamed for intentionally carrying out the prophecy of murdering Laius and causing the unhappiness that followed. Next we look at the shepherd that was given Oedipus by Laius and Jocasta. He knew the reason that they wanted the child dead, but he chose to let him live.
Feeling sorry for Oedipus, and not knowing the pain his life would later cause, he, too attempted to avoid fate by, first, hiding the truth of Oedipus origin and prophecy from the man he gave the child to, and also by disobeying the king and queens orders. He further hid the truth of Oedipus life by not letting anyone know that he had let him live. Polybus and Merope never revealed that their son was really not theirs by birth. It must have come as even more of a shock to Oedipus that the people he thought were his parents were not. Had they told him, he would not have run from them in the first place, not fearing he would kill who he thought was his father, Polybus, or marry Merope. They, like the shepherd, are also guilty of hiding the truth about Oedipus origin.
Oedipus murdered Laius, king of Thebes. This is admittedly true, and, in most cases, would prove that he is guilty of all the misery that followed: Black Death upon his city, Jocasta's suicide, and his own banishment and despair. Some would claim that the prophecy simply told him of what would happen; it is his own fault that these actions actually occurred. But can one really avoid Fate and what the gods have set for them? Never. It is foolish to think that one can.
Although the acts, to which Oedipus admits guilt, would occur regardless of all the parties actions, the situations that followed could have been avoided or reduced by the knowledge of the truth. If Oedipus is considered guilty, let all the others in question be guilty as well. For it is everyones arrogance in thinking that they were higher that the gods that made them suffer so. However, it is who carries the most culpability that should be condemned, but the guilt most certainly should not lie upon Oedipus. This is shown in the other fault that all three parties committed, and this is running from the truth.
Admittedly, Oedipus too, attempted to run from the truth. When he heard from the oracle at Delphi that he was to murder his father and marry his mother, he chose not to face his parents and tell him what he had heard. Instead, he ran, unbeknownst to them. Had he confronted them at that point, they may have told him that they were not his blood parents. However, he did not, and, like many others, tried to take matters into his own hands. Had Oedipus come to the realization that Polybus and Merope were not his parents, it may have reduced a great deal of agony.
He would not have left Corinth. By calling on the messenger from Corinth who delivered him to the king and queen, he could seek out the shepherd from Thebes, and found out who his true parents were. Laius murder probably could not have been avoided, as they were strangers and their meeting had happened by chance, but if Oedipus had realized that part of the prediction had come to pass, he could have obeyed the gods by marrying his mother, but perhaps not becoming romantically involved. This may have saved Jocasta. However, everyone chooses to hide the truth, leading to pain and misery. If at any point before this story, he came to this realization and left Thebes for, perhaps, home in Corinth, there would have been no Black Death.
The Black Death was caused by the residence of Laius murderer, unpunished, in Laius own city. The absence of this disease would have saved many people in the city from suffering and death. But in the end, it is Oedipus that chooses to face the truth, unlike any of the others. He could easily have chosen not to find the truth, and accepted the story that thieves had murdered Laius. Instead he finds the whole, damning, truth, which resulted in Jocasta's death. But if seeking truth is a fault, then the society is upside down.
Even this argument, seeking the true guilty party, would be pointless. So who is to blame? The truth is, there is no one but the gods that could have chosen this terrible fate for Oedipus. Even though the anguish of Oedipus, Jocasta, and the townspeople could have been lessened by someone not hiding the truth, the fact is that the act of murdering Laius and marrying Jocasta could not have been avoided. Oedipus, like the others, is a victim of the gods, not a suspect. They are all victims of whatever the gods choose.
Oedipus was, in fact, born for pain. But this is not a sufficient answer. So returning to the crime in question: Who caused the pain and anguish that lead to Oedipus banishment and misery, the Black Death upon the town, and Jocasta's suicide? All parties are equally guilty. Although the gods can be held responsible for Oedipus crimes of murder and incest marriage, the excessive horror, shock, and wretchedness was caused by the lack of knowledge and hiding of truth by all parties. Oedipus cannot be held solely responsible.
The reason that these three crimes occurred was not because Oedipus murdered a man and then fell in love and married. It is because that man was his father and married his mother. But how can one blame Oedipus, who had no idea? If you fought a man and killed him, and, on a separate occasion, married a woman you loved, is it your fault that they were your father and mother if no one ever let you know? No. One would, in the very least, equally blame those parties that kept this knowledge from you.
It is hereby concluded that Oedipus is not at fault in the consideration of Jocasta's suicide, the Black Death, and his own psychological downfall.
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