The Tale of Sohrab and Oedipus Tyrannus have a theme of fate and free will in common. This theme is the main one in both plays. In The Tale of Sohrab, Sohrab is searching for his father. However, his father, without knowledge, kills his son. He, later on, comes to regret what he just did. On the other side, Oedipus is searching for facts about his past. In the process, he ends up killing his father and marrying his mother, just as the prophecies had cited. This paper looks at how these plays address the issues of fate and free will.
One theme that is evident in both plays is fate and free will. Fate and free will are among the things which many authors have successfully addressed in their books. For a long time, many are anxious about knowing what their future holds and tend to go out of the way to fulfill their desires. In The Tragedy of Sohrab, Sohrab goes into a battlefield to meet the man he has always loved but never seen—his father. The author introduces the audience to Rostam. Rostam has a sexual relationship with Tahmina, who is a princess. Together, the two have a Sohrab. Many years go by, and Rostam is not in contact with Tahmina. As a result, Rostam and Sohrab have not seen each other, and neither of them has real knowledge of the other (Clinton 181). A time comes when these two go into battle, fighting each other on opposing sides. Even though Sohrab has suspicions about his father, Rostam is unable to recognize his son. Fighting in single combat, Rostam wrestles Sohrab to the ground and stabs him fatally. After being stabbed, Sohrab recalls how much he loves his father and how this love brought him to the battlefield—to see the mighty Rostam. To his horror, Rostam realizes that he just stabbed his son. He sees the bracelet he had given to Tahmina on Sohrab’s wrist. Tahmina gave Sohrab this bracelet with the hope that it would keep him safe in the battlefield. However, it is too late for Rostam to save his son. He just killed “the person that was dearest to him than all the others” (Clinton 181). Looking at this story, one is safe to say that it is one of the most tragic stories of Shahname.
In Oedipus Tyrannus, the playwright creates a compelling thought on expectation and foreknowledge. The play’s inspiration came from the Oedipus myth (Segal). There are elements of dramatic irony which allow the author to structure a story of how one may search for their fate and end up missing what they desire. The play also seems to question as to whether one may escape their fate or not. In Ancient Greek, people believed the gods could see into their future. There were also a few individuals who had this power of seeing into the future of others, with an example being Tiresias the blind (Segal). As such, there was tension when a priest or seer had a vision of someone or something in the community. In Oedipus, there are two prophecy cases. The first is the one which King Laius receives stating that his son—the one he has with Jocasta—would grow up to kill him. The second prophecy is one which Oedipus receives that he would marry his mother after killing his father. Oedipus, Jocasta, and King Laius work towards ensuring that these prophecies do not come to pass. However, their efforts to see the prophecies fail to pass are what brings the completion of the prophecies (Segal). As such, a question arises as to whether Oedipus has any choice regarding what is happening. Without his knowledge, he kills his father and marries his mother. He does these things when he is trying to avoid doing them. Does Oedipus have free will or is everything happening in his life predetermined? Jocasta believes the prophecies never came to pass; however, when she finds out the truth, she kills herself. In the play, Oedipus has fulfilled the prophecy without his knowledge. He has found his fate. One may argue that Oedipus did all these in his free will; however, he was pursuing the facts about his past, regardless of the many suggestions he received to let go (Segal). His destruction comes from the efforts to learn the truth. He makes a statement at the end of the play that his deeds were part of his fate, but he chose to make himself blind. Here, he argues that one’s fate could be predetermined, but their response is an issue of free will (Segal).
In conclusion, both plays seek to educate the audience on the matter of fate and free will. In The Tale of Sohrab, Sohrab’s father acts unknowingly and kills his son. However, Sohrab would have prevented his death if he had told Rostam that he was his son. In Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus is in search of the truth regarding his past. In the end, he kills his father and marries his mother. He, however, admits that no one can control their fate, but they can control how they react.
- Clinton, Jerome W. “The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam.” (1987): 181-2.
- Segal, Charles, ed. Oedipus Tyrannus: tragic heroism and the limits of knowledge. Vol. 108. Oxford University Press, USA, 2001.