Oedipus As Aristotle's Archetypal Tragic Hero

778 words - 4 pages

Aristotle, the great philosopher who lived from 384 B.C. - 322 B.C. in ancient Greece, defined a tragedy as “a drama treating a serious subject and involving persons of significance.” (1062) According to Aristotle, the protagonist of a tragedy (the “tragic hero”) required three basic characteristics. Firstly he or she must be deemed worthy via an exalted status and/or noble qualities. Secondly he or she must have a tragic flaw (hamartia) that leads to his or her downfall and finally a tragic hero must experience a downfall and recognize the reasons for that downfall. The play “Oedipus the King”, written by the great ancient Greek tragic dramatist Sophocles in 430 B.C. was chosen by ...view middle of the document...

While not to blame for his ignorance he can arguably be held responsible for the flaw of thinking he could escape his destiny. When Oedipus is told the prophecy that he will marry his mother and kill his father, he flees his home, thinking he can thus avoid such a fate. Throughout the drama, Oedipus relentlessly strives to discover two seemingly polar entities: the murderer of Laius, and his own true identity. In the end of his tragic downward spiral of truth, however, Oedipus discovers their equality. Oedipus' own seemingly beneficial characteristic of determination inevitably causes his tragic fall from dignity and grace. His complex character elicits the needed emotional responses—fear and pity—from the audience.

The downfall Oedipus experiences is a result of discovering the truth that he is living the terrible prophecy he tried to escape. With this knowledge blinds and exiles himself. His blinding himself, instead of committing suicide, elicits all the more pity since the audience sees his suffering as continuing on after the play ends. By avoiding fate early in life through feeble means (leaving his parents), Oedipus angers the Gods, and eventually pays for his wrongdoing through his own punishment. Though Oedipus is guilty, his self-banishment relieves his guilt and redeems his character.

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