The Character Oedipus

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The character Oedipus from a play of the same name is a well-known example of Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as someone who is of noble birth, has a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall in the end, has a reversal of fortune that is brought about by the hero’s tragic flaw, their actions result in an increase of self-awareness and self-knowledge, and the audience feels pity and fear for the character. The Character of Oedipus is best known for the sufferings he endures that come from a fate he has no control over. Therefore, Oedipus is the personification of Aristotle’s portrayal of a tragic hero through his capability to preserve his virtue and insight, regardless of his faults and dilemma.

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Think about Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, giving the definition we can conclude that Oedipus is the embodiment of the definition. He has the different traits of a tragic hero and how he ends up coming to his tragic fall. There remains then the man who occupies he mean between saintliness and depravity. He is not extra-ordinary in virtue and righteousness and yet does not fall into bad fortune because of evil and wickedness but because of some hamartia of a kind found in men of high reputation and good fortune such as Oedipus and Thyestes and famous men of similar families (Adade-Yeboah, Ahenkora, & Amankwa, 2012, pg. 2). Oedipus was born into a noble family who were told by a seer he would kill his father, so they put a spear in his ankles and deserted him. He was then found and adopted by another noble family. As he got older, he was told he would kill his father and marry his mother and have kids with her.

So, him being considered noble is the first part of the definition of a tragic hero. Oedipus plays the hero is in part a function of his current situation; he is above all responding to what has been imposed on him (McCollum, 1957). Oedipus’s nobility was giving to him and he accepted it and the fate that came with it. He showed how he deserved his nobility by answering the Sphinx’s riddle and winning the hand of Queen Jocasta. He ended up killing his birth father and fulfilling the prophecy even though he didn’t know he fulfilled it. He also ended up marring his birth mother which also fulfilled the prophecy. He spent his whole time as king looking for the killer of the old king which was his father and he didn’t know he was the killer all along. He brought destruction to the city just by fulfilling the prophecy. His disgrace doesn’t come from his wickedness (incestuous relationship with his mother, killing his father), but rather from a mixture of everything.

Oedipus loses his temper with a blind prophet who tries to warn him, Am I to bear this from him? Damnation Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight! (Sophocles, 425, pg. 870). Oedipus losing his temper with Tiresias, the blind prophet, was a factor in his downfall. Him losing his temper again goes back to Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero because he is demonstrating the error of judgment. Moreover this hero must commit a significant error or else the events of the drama would not be motivated and would not be linked by necessity and probability; nevertheless the error must be intellectual rather than moral or else the undeserved quality of the misfortune would be destroyed and with it the necessary preconditions for the evocation of pity and fear (Golden, 1975). Oedipus lost his temper when the blind prophet told him he was going to kill his father and marry his mother.

He ran from the town and came across a man with only one guard and killed the man, he later learns this man is his father. The weakness that shows that something wrong has been done is the responsibility of tragedy. Aristotle will not give the guilt to the hero whose righteousness and purity he still holds true. Aristotle focuses on human fault instead of the lack of ethics as the cause of tragedy. Oedipus has his anger redeemed at the end of the play. He shows a lot of insight after he becomes blind and condemned to be an outcast in exile. .or kill me, hurl me, into the sea, away from men’s eyes forever. Of all men, I alone can bear this guilt. (Sophocles, 425 pg. 894). This proves Aristotle’s point that Oedipus is not evil but is he capable of making mistakes like other humans.

The variety of the language expressively improves the play and allows the play to be held in high esteem by different types of spectators. Aristotle believed that the language between different characters should be different to show the social order of each character (Adade-Yeboah, Ahenkora, & Amankwa, 2012 pg. 1). Aristotle liked to make a point that tragedies should be taken serious and not just pushed to the side.

There is a multifaceted connection between tragedy and emotions which is offered by Aristotle. He shows this using shame and terror. Aristotle says little about why audiences feel pity and fear when they watch tragedies (Konstan, 1999, pg. 1). He adds that people pity those who are similar, weather in age, character, family, or whatever; in general, he concludes, one must presume that people pity just those things, when they happen to others, that they fear when they happen to themselves (Konstan, 1999, pg. 1). Therefore, the audience feels emotions when reading or watching tragedies when characters are similar to them in someway which is what the author wants them to do. The audience responds to the series of events in the play; feeling disappointment for Oedipus about his destiny and the dilemma he encounters.

Aristotle believed that what happens in a play should be replicated through a believable plot to which the spectators can easily relate and recognize with for the success of a true tragedy. Finkelberg contends that Aristotle demands for the creation of a full-scale illusion of real-life experience and, as a result, for the audience’s emotional identification with the characters. Only such emotional identification would lead to the proper tragic pleasure that Aristotle seeks (Finkelberg, 2006 pg.6). Going off Aristotle’s definition of plot, Oedipus Rex has a very distinctive plot that produces suspense and carefully involves the spectators.

In Conclusion

Oedipus Rex follows Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Oedipus was of noble birth, he had a tragic flaw that led to his downfall, he has a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall in the end, has a reversal of fortune that is brought about by the hero’s tragic flaw, his actions result in an increase of self-awareness and self-knowledge, and the audience feels pity and fear for the him. Oedipus is best known for is miseries that he tolerates that come from a destiny he has no control over. It is concluded that Oedipus is the personification of Aristotle’s portrayal of a tragic hero through his capability to preserve his virtue and insight, regardless of his faults and dilemma.

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The Character Oedipus. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved September 29, 2022 , from
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