Common themes

Common themes for our characters

Tensions between individual action and fate

Humbaba’s mouth is fire; his roar the floodwater; his breath is death. Enlil made him guardian of the Cedar Forest, to frighten off the mortal who would venture there. But who would venture there? Humbaba’s mouth is fire; his roar is the floodwater; he breathes and there is death. He hears the slightest sound somewhere in the Forest. Enlil made him terrifying guardian, Whose mouth is fire, whose roar the floodwater.
—Tablet II

I think this definitely shows the tensions between individual actions and fate. This is when they prepare to invade Cedar Forest and kill Humbaba. This is definitely a turning point in Gilgamesh's life.

TEIRESIAS
Well, it will come what will, though I be mute.
OEDIPUS
Since come it must, thy duty is to tell me.
TEIRESIAS
I have no more to say; storm as thou willst,
And give the rein to all thy pent-up rage.


Teiresias insists that, regardless of what he says or does, fate will play itself out.

TEIRESIAS
I go, but first will tell thee why I came.
Thy frown I dread not, for thou canst not harm me.
Hear then: this man whom thou hast sought to arrest
With threats and warrants this long while, the wretch
Who murdered Laius--that man is here.
He passes for an alien in the land
But soon shall prove a Theban, native born.
And yet his fortune brings him little joy;
For blind of seeing, clad in beggar's weeds,
For purple robes, and leaning on his staff,
To a strange land he soon shall grope his way.
And of the children, inmates of his home,
He shall be proved the brother and the sire,
Of her who bare him son and husband both,
Co-partner, and assassin of his sire.
Go in and ponder this, and if thou find
That I have missed the mark, henceforth declare
I have no wit nor skill in prophecy.

Teiresias expresses confidence in his ability to prophesy. While Oedipus wavers in his will, Teiresias stands firm. This represents the strength of fate over the weakness of man.

Character themes