Assess the relative roles of fate, chance and human responsibility in bringing about the outcomes of La Machine Infernale. i?? dipus, the original play, was written with the intention of demonstrating how it is possible for the human race to fall. Around the time that Sophocles was writing, the power of the Gods was being doubted, and instead people were starting to believe they possessed free will, and were in control of their destinies. As in i?? dipus, La Machine Infernale manifests that fate will eventually conquer those who attempt to escape from it.
Fate, chance and human responsibility are all contributors to the outcomes of La Machine Infernale, however, it was the fate decided by the Gods and prophesised to Jocaste that began the process that would lead to their tragic end. In this essay, I will answer the question by focusing on the three events in the play whilst assessing their roles in the occurring and outcomes of these situations. The first event which is central to the story is the meeting of Laius and i?? dipus. Cocteau writes how i?? dipus was already heading towards his fate, “La crainte… le jette vers son destin”.
Fate, in this instance, is the factor that drove i?? dipus literally towards the crossroads. Had his fate not been conveyed to him by Delphes, he would not have met Laius. Because of his fate, i?? dipus was always going to meet and murder his father somehow, but it was by chance that i?? dipus met him in this anonymous manner. Fate is responsible for the outcome, that is the death of Laius, “Il tuera son pi?? re”. This was an inevitable situation, yet chance decided where, when and how.
Furthermore, chance is accountable for the prolongation of Jocaste’s and i??dipus ignorance about their blood connection; it seemed at the time that this was a chance meeting, therefore, i?? dipus didn’t dwell on the death of this man, “il a vite oublii?? cet accident”. Had it been a more dramatic and blatant incident, he might well have thought more about it, and connected it with the prophecy much sooner than he did. This accident, though it occurs at the beginning of the play, is directly connected to the tragic ending, and the overall outcome of the story.
Human responsibility plays a large role here also, as it is ultimately i??dipus’ personality that makes him run away from his parents and all the decisions that he makes thereafter. i?? dipus would have been aware that a person’s fate cannot be escaped, yet like Jocaste, who in leaving him on the hillside was desperately trying to avoid that which had been prophesised, he thought he could outwit the Gods – arguably a blatant demonstration of arrogance on his part. Though perhaps i?? dipus personality is the result of his surroundings and upbringing, ultimately, he decided to leave and it was his temper that caused him to kill his father. He was not forced by anyone, and it was not done in self-defence.
Similarly, his ‘enthusiastic’ personality helped him to forget that he had taken a life until many years later, “… je n’ai pas tui?? Polybe, mais… j’ai tui?? une homme”. The second event which is integral to the play, is the defeat of the sphinx. This is an important connection that had to be made between i?? dipus’ old life, and the one which he would inevitably enter with Jocaste. A dramatic occurrence was needed both to bring the two together, and to raise i?? dipus to a high status of respect and honour, “Pour que les dieux s’amusent beaucoup, il importe que leur victime tombe de haut”
It could be argued therefore that Fate dictated that he would defeat the sphinx, in order to achieve this criterion of the prophecy. i?? dipus’ fate compels him to search out the sphinx to merit Jocaste’s hand in marriage, “Si je tue le Sphinx… La reine Jocaste est veuve, je l’i?? pouserai”. It was also the Sphinx’s decision to allow i?? dipus to guess the riddle. Though, she seems to have shown pity towards him, he was destined to succeed in order for him to marry Jocaste, and her benevolence was therefore wasted. One could argue that chance did not play a significant role in this situation.
It was perhaps chance that the Sphinx liked i?? dipus and at that time had grown weary of killing, “… si tu n’avais eu le privili?? ge de me plaire”. However, in my opinion, human responsibility was crucial to this part of the play, as traits of i?? dipus’ personality such as his ambition and thirst for glory, “J’aime les foules qui pietient… le bonheur, la chance, vivre enfin! ” prompted him to search out the Sphinx and become fixated on defeating it.