When you think of Sophocles' Oedipus the King, you tend to think of how the tragedy and prophecy could have easily been avoided, the events that led to the tragedy, and how the characters unwittingly played a role in the unfolding of the prophecy. It is the foolishness and stubbornness of many of the characters such as Oedipus and Jocasta that led to the downfall of Oedipus and the shame and destruction of his House. .
Jocasta and Laius were told of a prophecy from the Delphi. The prophecy stated that their son will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Dumbfounded, Laius told Jocasta to take the infant, Oedipus, to the top of Mount Cithaeron to die from the elements. But instead of killing Oedipus herself, she told their servant, a shepherd, to commit the act for her. The shepherd instead took pity on the infant and did not leave him there to die. In this instance, murder of an infant could have avoided a dreadful prophecy. But it was the pity and compassion the shepherd had for Oedipus that played a role in the prophecy coming true. Oedipus was rescued by the shepherd and given to Polybus and his Queen, Merope for adoption. .
As Oedipus got older he began to hear rumors that he was adopted and consulted with the Delphic Oracle who told him he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus then fled his hometown of Corinth for fear of the safety of his parents. One particular aspect to this story is the curiosity of Oedipus. Had he not consulted the Oracle he would not have fled Corinth. In doing so, he encountered a man on his travels and got into a confrontation. He ended up killing his real father, Laius. Again, the Oracle played a role by informing Oedipus of the prophecy.
Oedipus continued his journey and arrived at Thebes only to discover that the city was being attacked by the sphinx. By killing Laius, Oedipus fulfilled the first part of the prophecy. The city of Thebes was in chaos and Oedipus saved the city by solving the riddle of the sphinx.