The genre of drama is wide and contains works of varied forms and subjects. The first drama, on which all later works are based, developed in Greece and dealt with religious and social issues. According to Aristotle, a Greek Tragedy must deal with a serious purpose, creating a sense of pity or fear in the audience. The emphasis must be on plot over character development and the playwright must utilize suspense, timing, place, and action. Aristotle writes that a tragic hero is a character who is renowned and prosperous, not necessarily perfect, but not an evil person either. The tragic hero must meet with a reversal of fortune brought about by either folly or fate. Based on these criteria, Oedipus the King by Sophocles is considered the prototypical Greek Tragedy. Oedipus, the plays main character, is also considered the model of a Greek tragic hero.
Oedipus the King deals with several serious purposes, the greatest of which being the agnosticism Sophocles perceived in his community. Through Iokaste who would not waste a second thought on oracles, Sophocles shows his audience the perils of disbelief in the gods, since each prophecy made by oracles in the play ended up coming true. Sophocles uses his play to perform serious religious functions as well as to entertain theatre-goers. The fulfillment of the predictions made by the oracles led to the downfall of Oedipus, which created a catharsis in the audience, brought by arousing feelings of pity and fear for the fallen king. The Choragos gives the lesson, let none presume on his good fortune until he find life, at his death, a memory without pain. This scene allows the audience to leave the theater feeling purged of their pity and fear.
The plot is the most important component of Oedipus the King, as it is of every Greek Tragedy. Development of characters is secondary, and the audience rarely gets inside any of the characters. Only characters crucial to the plot are introduced; there is no extraneous action on stage. This development of plot is a challenge. A tragedian must present a story with which the audience is already familiar and still make it interesting. In conclusion, Oedipus as a tragic character is heroic because of how he struggles throughout the story, he is pitiable because of the weakness facing forces of his destiny, and his tragedy arouses fear in us because, in a way, he acts like a mirror into ourselves. Though he was a great man otherwise, The irony that we see of his fate is that fate has done what it wanted to before he had actually believed it. The tragedy of Oedipus is that of the realization of his failure. His story tells us that man must try his best but even then he cannot conquer the inevitable.
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