Societies are full of loathing, deceit, and violence, and because of this, societies must be held together by a single principle - justice. But, what is justice? Some may define justice as the quality of fairness, but who defines fairness? Others may define justice as conformity to a certain standard, but who defines this standard? In Sophocles" King Oedipus, civil justice, poetic justice, and rough justice all exist in the world of the play to the extent that divine justice is served in the end, and ultimately, the wishes of the gods, who are wary of individuals with the most fortune and power, are fulfilled.
Although he never has the intention of killing his father, marrying his mother, or performing any crime, Oedipus, originally born into a royal family to be blessed with remarkable fortune and eventual power, cannot escape the tragic fate which the gods have set for him. The gods plot against Oedipus when he is born because they are able to recognize and fear his potential arrogance, wisdom, and greatness; they do not wish to compete or be compared with a mortal. At the outset, in fear of killing King Polybus, the man who he believes is his father, Oedipus self-exiles himself from Corinth. Eventually, at a site where three roads meet, rough justice is served as he ends up killing a traveler and four bodyguards for treating him disrespectfully, unaware that the traveler is his actual father, King Laius. Soon afterwards, he reaches Thebes, which is being harassed by a vindictive monster recognized as the Sphinx. He frees Thebes from the Sphinx" wrath after answering one of its riddles and compels the monster to destroy itself. Civil justice is served when the citizens of Thebes reward him by delegating him as their king, prompting him to marry Jocasta, oblivious of the fact that she is his mother. In time, with extreme revulsion, Oedipus realizes that he has unintentionally fulfilled the prophecy of the Delphic oracle and met his revolting fate:.