Oedipus Rex is a great example of a classic Aristotelian tragic hero. Because Oedipus was a tragic hero his downfall was not caused by the work of Gods or fate, but by his flaws and his personality. To Aristotle, to be a tragic hero there are requirements that the character must obtain to be looked upon as a tragic hero.
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The first need is that he must be a man that is highly renown. He also must also carry exceptional powers. The tragic hero is a good man but he must commit an act of deviance or crime which brings them from being happy to being miserable. The tragedy is caused by flaws in the character or his personality.
Oedipus is Sophocles’ tragic hero is Oedipus Rex. Oedipus was a high renown and prosperous man. At first, he was adopted by the King of Corinth, Polybus, and his wife Merope. They pretended as if he were their biological son and raised him to be the Prince of Corinth. Oedipus then met with the Sphinx, after answering the riddle he killed her and soon became the King of Thebes. With this now happening, he was now, the King of one place and Prince of another. He was set for a great fall to the bottom. This was the first need for being a tragic hero.
Oedipus possessed extraordinary powers of wit which allowed him to answer the Sphinx riddle. In doing so with solving the riddle he lifted the plague on Thebes. He was the only one to conquer the riddle, many people before him had failed miserably and met their demise. His impressive intellectual powers won him power as King of Thebes. Oedipus, just like other tragic heroes seemed to be set for life. But his blindness eventually caused him to lose everything.
Oedipus was a good-natured man. He truly cared about his people, shown by his effort to lift the plague of the Sphinx. Oedipus also showed that he wanted to do some good by pledging to find the murderers of his father, who was the original King of Thebes. He hated to see his people in such ruins.
Despite all of his great qualities Oedipus also had some major character flaws. He was short tempered and tends to run away to avoid any conflict. His violent personality played a significant part in his tragic downfall. When he learned of the prophesy that he would kill his father and marry his mother he decided to run away from his adoptive parents. This action stirred up a lot of conflict later in the play. He had decided to remain with his adoptive parents at Corinth, he did not know they were his adoptive parents, he would not have killed his father. An example of his short ill temper was when Teiresias tells Oedipus that he is the murderer “But not for you, not for you, you sightless, witless senseless old man!” This shows Oedipus does not believe Teiresias or let alone listen to what he must say.
Oedipus loved his Corinthian parents, so he would have stayed not had occasion to accidentally kill them. Instead, he decided to up and leave Corinth and while on his journey to Thebes he stumbled upon a group of men at a crossroad. Little did he know that was his real father, Laius, the King was the leader of this party in route to Delphi. They were on their way to the answer to the Sphinx riddle.
Laius and Oedipus were both hit tempered and started to argue over who had the right of way. Laius was insulting of Oedipus and struck him. Oedipus retaliated by killing Laius and his servants. Oedipus did not have to kill them, he could have easily ignored the situation and proceeded about his trip. His impulsive temper caused him to kill them. Also, at the end him gouging out his eyes demonstrated that he was very over-reactive. He could have easily left Thebes and lived in banishment.
Oedipus only saw one side of the matter at hand. If he had taken the time to sit back and look at the picture, he would not have left home. He would have seen that he could have stayed with his adoptive parents and not fulfilled the prophesy. Instead, he chose to abscond. Later at the crossroads, he should have remembered that any man he happened to kill could have been his father. Had the knowledge that he was adopted by his parents in Corinth, so he knew that his birth parents were out there somewhere. His blindness to the matters at hand and his uncontrolled emotions together put him in the correct places and time to fulfill the prophesies. Oedipus will not even listen to good reason because of his blindness. “I will not listen, the truth must be know… snaps my patience, then; I want none of it.” He will not even sit back and look at the dreaded picture he is about to uncover.
As this paper demonstrates, Oedipus’s downfall was his fault. Fate did not control his demise, bur his character and personality did him in. Oedipus was a great man and fell into misery because of his rash actions.
Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound & Sense, by Greg Johnson et al., Cengage Learning, 2018, pp. 1257–1301.
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