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Discuss The Ways In Which The Character Of Oedipus In Oedipus The King

1100 words - 4 pages

Discuss the ways in which the character of Oedipus in Oedipus the King
conforms to the conventions of the tragic hero. In your discussion refer
to how the issues explored in the play have a wider significance than
the tragedy of Oedipus as an individual.

Assessment 9: Short Essay – Drama

Discuss the ways in which the character of Oedipus in Oedipus the King
conforms to the conventions of the tragic hero. In your discussion
refer to how the issues explored in the play have a wider significance
than the tragedy of Oedipus as an individual.

Oedipus the King is one of the Three Theban Plays written by Sophocles
in around 400 B.C. It is a prime example of tragedy, and through the
use of a tragic hero, conforms to the typical conventions of a tragic
drama. Issues explored in the play such as destiny and hubris have a
wider significance than just the tragedy of Oedipus as an individual -
they are recurring traits of tragedies that have been mimicked through
the ages.

In order to examine the conventions followed by Oedipus the King, it
is first necessary to define tragedy. The term tragedy is applied
broadly to literary, and especially to dramatic, representations of
serious and important actions which turn out disastrously for the main
character. Aristotle defined tragedy as ‘the imitation of an action
that is serious and also, as having multitude, complete in itself.’
Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is still the first tuning point
today. His idea of defining the form by referring to its effects on
the audience is controversial – especially his idea of catharsis – the
‘purification’ of the emotions of those in the audience. This is the
effect that leaves the audience feeling not depressed at the hero’s
suffering and defeat, but relieved and even inspired at the end of the

A major feature of tragedy is the use of a tragic hero. A tragic hero
can be defined as the principle character in a tragedy who begins in a
position of social importance and who is held in high esteem, but
through an error of judgement brings about their own downfall and
destruction. In the case of Oedipus the King, this role is fulfilled
by Oedipus, who is led by his hamartia (tragic flaw) to do something
that ultimately leads to his downfall. Aristotle also outlined the
characteristics of a good tragic hero. He must be "better than we
are," a man who is superior to the average man in some way. In
Oedipus's case, he is superior not only because of social standing,
but also because he is smart he is the only person who could solve the
Sphinx's riddle. At the same time, a tragic hero must evoke both pity
and fear, and Aristotle claims that the best way to do this is if he
is imperfect. A character with a mixture of good and evil comes across
as more compelling than a character that is merely good. The fact that
these qualities are so accepted means that they continue to connect
with audiences of every generation.


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