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According to the great philosopher Aristotle, the tragic hero is
impeded by a distinguishable characteristic or tragic flaw which leads to
his ultimate demise. "According to Aristotle, a tragic hero has a supreme
pride. Aristotle also believed that a tragic hero shows vigorous protest"
( Jones). "When Sophocles penned "Oedipus Rex", he not only created a play
with universal themes, but a character that Aristotle would later define as
a tragic hero" (Hamlett). There are a number of characteristics that define
a tragic hero. Being a noble member of an upper class, or he or her must
contain a tragic flaw that will cause his or her own downfall and must be
responsible for his or her own fate. "The tragic hero must have a grave
moral flaw" (Bloom 38). A tragic flaw is "a flaw in a character of the hero
of a tragedy that brings about his downfall" (Merriam-Webster 1238).
Although a tragic hero causes his own downfall, his fate is usually not
deserved. The tragic hero is usually someone of importance or power who has
a tragic flaw that affects his judgment, and must then suffer the
consequences. A tragic hero is usually someone of importance or power who
has a tragic flaw that affects his judgment. In the play "Oedipus the
King", Oedipus is a tragic hero. "Oedipus is a classic example of
Aristotle's tragic man" (Jones). All of the above characteristics make
Oedipus a tragic hero and one can see how these attributes cause his fall
from a powerful king to a blind outcast.
Oedipus was victimized by his own fate. The oracle ruled Oedipus's
life. "An oracle once prophesied to the young couple that the son Jocasta
was about to bear would kill his father and sleep with his mother"
(Melchinger 104). In fear, Oedipus' birth parents leave him on a mountain
top to die. Oedipus is found a Shepard and is given to adopted parents.
When Oedipus was older he hears that fate would have him end up killing his
own father and sleeping with his mother. He decides to run away and get out
of town. He figured that since he was supposed to kill his father and
marry his mother, he would leave his home, so that he would be far away
from Polybos (his adopted father) and mother. What Oedipus did not realize
is that the oracle was not talking about Polybos; it was talking about his
real father. Oedipus did not know that he adopted, naturally he would
believe that the oracle was referring to his father, Polybos. Oedipus
running away ends up bringing him closer to his birth parents, and thus, he
is actually taking the first step towards fulfilling the prophecy that the
oracle predicted. One night while Oedipus was traveling on a dark road, he
came upon King Lauis's entourage. Oedipus lost his temper and killed
everyone in the entourage due to his impulsiveness and foolishness, which
led to his being crowned King and ultimately, to his downfall. Oedipus
killed King Lauis not knowing it was his father. When the Sphinx plagued
the city Thebes by eating those who could not answer its riddle, "What goes
on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three at the evening?"
(Kennedy and Gioia 1383). Oedipus was the only person able to chase the
Sphinx away with the correct answer of "man". This led to him becoming the
king of Thebes which in turn led to his superiority ranking. "Oedipus's
past actions were fate-bound, but everything that he does on stage from
first to last he does as a free agent" (Bloom 41). A plague is put on the
city while Oedipus is king. The plague will not be lifted until King Lauis
killer is brought to justice. Oedipus was later crowned King of Thebes and
was thus obliged to find the killer of the former King Lauis in order to
save his people from suffering. Oedipus relentless search for the truth
ultimately brought his downfall.
Oedipus is a very stubborn man and he lets his pride and his temper
get in the way of his better judgment. The killing of Lauis and his
servants is an extreme display of Oedipus' murderous temperament. Oedipus
got very angry when a messenger suggests that Polybus was not his father.
Oedipus was a good ruler though. He was compassionate and sympathetic.
However, Oedipus was not a perfect man. His tragic flaw was that of
stubbornness, impulsiveness, and most of all, his grandiosity. "Oedipus
has a self-centered, arrogant attitude toward life" (Jones).
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Operas, Ancient Greek theatre, Narratology, Plot, Poetics, Oedipus, Sophocles, Hamartia, Jocasta, Polybus of Corinth, Tragic hero, Tiresias
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