The Effects of the Gods on Fate in Epics and Tragedies Michael Moloney In both tragedies and epic poems, the gods affect fate in various ways. The epic I will be investigating is The Odyssey. The tragedy I will investigate is Oedipus the King. The gods affect fate in differently throughout these two stories. Since both these stories were written by the ancient Greeks, they perfectly exemplify the Greek religious value that the gods controlled life. The gods control the events of the plot and push the characters towards their ultimate ends, both the heroic, and the tragic.
In the Odyssey, the gods directly put in motion the major events of the plot. They directly interfere with the lives of Odysseus, his men, and the Cyclops. “The strong god glittering left her as he spoke, and new her lady, having given head to Zeus’s mandate, went to find Odysseus…” -Page 753 In this passage, Hermes was sent by Zeus to Calypso’s island to free Odysseus. This supports my statement because if it wasn’t for the actions of Hermes and Zeus, Odysseus never would have left Calypso’s island, the entire story never would have been told, and Odysseus’s fate never would have been fulfilled. Now Zeus the Lord of Cloud roused in the North a storm against the ships…we saw death in that fury, dropped the yard…and pulled for the nearest lee. ” -Page 757 Because of Zeus’s interference, they were disoriented and accidentally sailed to the Lotus Eaters’ Island. By doing this, Zeus set in motion the events that led to everything else in the story and Odysseus and his men had to pass through all their other trials and tribulations on the way back to Ithaca. “Now comes the weird upon me, spoken of old.
A wizard, grand and wondrous, lived here… and these things he foretold for time to come: my great eye lost, and at Odysseus’ hands. ” -Page 769, Polyphemus In this passage, Polyphemus, the Cyclops, reveals a prophecy involving him. When the gods blew Odysseus and his crew off-course, and they landed on the island, they fulfilled the Cyclops’s fate. In Oedipus the King, the gods influence fate more indirectly than directly. They mainly utilize the blind prophet Tieresias as a way to enact their will without being directly involved in Oedipus’s life. “What is to come will come, even if it is shrouded in darkness. -Page 20, Tieresias This quote illustrates the inevitability of fate. It doesn’t explicitly support my thesis, until you take into account that “what is to come” is Oedipus’s fate, which is being propelled by a prophecy of Apollo. “He will be revealed as brother and father of the children with whom he now lives, the son and husband of the woman who gave him birth, the murderer and marriage partner of his father. ” Page 27, Tieresias In this quote, Tieresias reveals one of his prophecies. Since Oedipus is the person that this prophecy applies to, it leads to many major events in the plot.
These include Oedipus discovering his fate, Jocasta killing herself, and Oedipus blinding himself. Without Apollo and the Oracle of Delphi, none of these events would have occurred. “Oh god, it has all come true! Light, let this be the last time I see you. I stand revealed — born in shame, married in shame, an unnatural murderer. ” -Page 69, Oedipus In this section Oedipus realized that the prophecy came true, and that due to the gods, he fulfilled the fate that he desperately tried to avoid. In The Odyssey and Oedipus the King, the gods affect fate in similar ways as well.
This next portion of my paper will address several common links between the two stories. “Oh Father Zeus and gods in bliss forever, punish Odysseus’s men. So overweening, now they have killed my peaceful kine, my joy at morning when I climbed the sky of stars, and evening, when I bore westward from heaven. Restitution or penalty they shall pay— and pay in full—or I go down forever to light the dead men in the underworld. …” -Page 786, Helios When Odysseus’s crew killed and ate the Cattle of the Sun, Helios asked Zeus to punish them. Zeus killed them all with a lightning bolt, fulfilling
Tieresias’s prophecy. This links it to Oedipus because Oedipus was also a victim of a prophecy. “As for the murderer himself, I call down a curse on him, whether that unknown figure be one man, or one among many. ” -Page 15, Oedipus “O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands…grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, never see his home…” Page 770, Polyphemus These two stories link The Odyssey and Oedipus because in the first passage, Oedipus is calling down a curse on the murderer, asking the gods to punish him; and in the second passage Polyphemus is asking Poseidon, his father, to punish Odysseus.
Now, because of all this evidence, it is clear that without the involvement of the gods, the fates of these two characters would never have come true, and many important events in the plot never would have happened. Whether direct or indirect, the gods are a major engine in moving the plot along. They operate through nature, and direct involvement, as well as prophecies and curses. The gods, no matter how they do it, affect fate throughout epics and tragedies.