In my essay, I discuss the idea that Oedipus’s punishment did not fit the crime. The only punishment I am considering is the banishment because I feel his other punishments were either self-inflicted or as a result of his actions other than the killing of Laius. His banishment and the killing of his father (Laius) are clearly linked, which is why it is the only punishment I am considering in this essay. My points include the fact that a promise was made at the start of the story, the people in the kingdom have links with the punishment, and that fate played a part.
Wasn’t the search for Laius’s killer conducted in order to rid the land of the plague? At the very beginning of the story, we learn that the plague will be wiped from the land if the Laius’s killer is either murdered are driven from the land. On this point alone, it would seem that Oedipus’s punishment of being banished is fitting, if only for the fact that it follows through on the promise that was made near the start of the story.
It may be fair to say that the search for Laius’s killer was done for the people. The people would be free from the plague if Laius’s killer were murdered or driven from the land. If that is the case, then a harsher punishment such as death may not have done the people very much good. After all, the king is placed on the throne by god. It is seen as god’s decision that the person sitting on the throne is supposed to be there. If the king were removed by man and then killed by man, it may shake the faith that people have in god, which is technically the only unforgivable sin in the Christian religion. Taking the name of god in vein, i.e. acting in a way that damages the good name of god, is the only sin that the commandments say is unforgivable. Killing Oedipus may have shaken people’s faith, and so it would not have been a fitting punishment.
Despite the fact that the Christian god is not present in the play, one is aware that Shakespeare is more knowledgeable and biased towards a Christian god than any Greek god, so it is unsurprising that such a Christian idea or theme exists in the play.
There seems to be three fates that direct the life of Oedipus. Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos seemed to have an integral part to play in Oedipus’s destiny. Do we punish water for falling down a waterfall? If fate or destiny genuinely had a part to play in the matter, then there is no punishment at all that would fit the crime. To make Oedipus suffer for something he has no control over, i.e. his fate, is not fitting because it is more about revenge than it is about justice. After all, if Oedipus was destined to kill Laius, then Laius was destined to die. Oedipus hints that fate and destiny are at work when he mentions the savage power that brought this down upon his head.
If we consider that the story made a promise near the beginning, then Oedipus’s punishment is apt. If you consider how killing him would affect the people, then banishment or any punishment less than death is apt. If you consider the fact that fate had a part to play, then no punishment is apt. if you consider the fact that fate had a role, then Oedipus is a victim. In conclusion, his punishment was fitting but unfair.