Oedipus: Why Didn't His Foster Parents Tell?

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 555 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 555|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

From ancient Greek tragedies to modern literature, the story of Oedipus has captivated audiences for centuries. Oedipus, the tragic hero of Sophocles' play, unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, fulfilling a prophecy that he was destined to bring disaster to his family. However, one question that often arises is why Oedipus' foster parents, Polybus and Merope, never revealed his true identity. This essay aims to explore the possible reasons behind their silence and the implications it has on the tragic events that unfold in the play.

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One possible explanation for Polybus and Merope's decision to keep Oedipus' origins hidden is their fear of the prophecy. The oracle at Delphi had foretold that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, causing immense harm to his family. In an attempt to prevent this prophecy from coming true, the couple might have believed that keeping Oedipus in the dark about his true parentage would protect him from the tragic fate that awaited him.

Moreover, it is essential to consider the societal norms and expectations of ancient Greece. In a society where bloodlines and family honor held great significance, the revelation of Oedipus' illegitimate origins could have brought shame and disgrace upon his adoptive parents. By concealing the truth, Polybus and Merope might have sought to protect not only their son's life but also their own reputation within the community.

Another possible reason for Polybus and Merope's silence is their unconditional love for Oedipus. Despite not being his biological parents, they raised him as their own, nurturing him with affection and care. The bond between foster parents and a child can be as strong as that between biological parents, and Polybus and Merope might have chosen to prioritize their love for Oedipus over revealing the truth, fearing that it would damage their relationship with him.

However, the decision of Oedipus' foster parents to withhold his true identity has significant implications for the unfolding of the tragic events in Sophocles' play. Ignorant of his parentage, Oedipus embarks on a quest for truth and justice, determined to uncover the identity of his father's killer. This pursuit ultimately leads him to discover his own guilt, resulting in the tragic downfall of both Oedipus and his adoptive parents.

The silence of Polybus and Merope can be seen as a catalyst for Oedipus' tragic fate. Had they revealed the truth to him, Oedipus might have been able to avoid the disastrous path that he eventually follows. However, it is important to acknowledge that the concept of fate plays a significant role in the play. Despite his foster parents' silence, the prophecy would have still come to pass, as it was destined by the gods. The tragic events in Oedipus' life were unavoidable, regardless of what his adoptive parents chose to disclose.

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In conclusion, the decision of Oedipus' foster parents, Polybus and Merope, to withhold his true identity can be attributed to their fear of the prophecy, societal expectations, and their unconditional love for him. Their silence sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Oedipus' tragic downfall. However, it is crucial to recognize that fate plays a significant role in the play, and the tragic events would have occurred regardless of their actions. The story of Oedipus serves as a timeless reminder of the complexities of human existence and the inevitable nature of destiny.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Oedipus: Why Didn’t His Foster Parents Tell? (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 21, 2024, from
“Oedipus: Why Didn’t His Foster Parents Tell?” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Oedipus: Why Didn’t His Foster Parents Tell? [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jul. 2024].
Oedipus: Why Didn’t His Foster Parents Tell? [Internet] GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 21]. Available from:
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