Oedipus Rex As A Tragedy: How This Play Fit Into The "Tragic" Criteria.

1571 words - 6 pages

Oedipus Rex as a TragedyOedipus Rex, written by Greek playwright Sophocles, is considered to be one of the mostingenious yet disturbing plays ever to be written. This drama has greatly influenced Westernculture, as elements of this play can be seen throughout later literature, legend and language,becoming the standard for all other tragedies to be compared. The tragic figure, in this caseOedipus, is responsible for his own downfall. This leads to harmatia, or an error in judgement,usually a direct result of the initial hubris, and sets in motion the incidents or consequenceswhich lead to the destruction of the individual. The tragic figure must suffer and in turn, be awareof the reasons for his suffering, but it is more often than not disproportionate to the actual crime.Also, there must be a moment of tragic illumination or recognition, in which the tragic figureacknowledges that he is responsible for his eventual downfall. In short, these characteristics aremain elements in the definition of a tragedy. The tragic hero's self destructive actions convey anaspect of the human condition. They also raise the question to what extent is the individualresponsible for his own demise, or is he mainly a plaything of the fates. Oedipus Rex embodiesthese characteristics to such a degree, that it has become the paradigm of tragedy.The tragic figure must not only be regarded with respect and admiration, but also evokepity with his downfall. This figure is not ordinary but extraordinary; However, we as an audiencedo not necessarily identify with the tragic figure, rather we associate some of our character traitsScodellaro 2with his and thereby are given a tragic glimpse of the human condition. These are some of thequalities which make Oedipus such an effective character in the tragedy. He is a popular leader,loved and acknowledged not only for his political power, but his wisdom and intelligence. It washe who, when everyone else stood helpless before the Sphinx that ravaged Thebes, answered theriddle and destroyed her, thus freeing the land of which he then became king. "It was you, weremember, a newcomer to Cadmus' town / That broke our bondage to the vile Enchantress / Withno foreknowledge or hint that we could give / But, as we truly believe, with the help of God /You gave us back our life" (Sophocles, lines 35-39). Oedipus, aware of this alliance with thegods as well as his own greatness, has an enormous amount of self-assurance, making him anhonourable king. It is this harmonious balance between Oedipus and his citizens which leads tothe reliance that Oedipus will continue to deliver competent decisions and rule a successfulkingdom. As a plague falls upon Thebes, which destroys the city's crops and pastures and leavesall women sterile, the people look to Oedipus for support. "Now, Oedipus, great and glorious, weseek / Your help again" (Sophocles, 40-41). He in turn is determined: "What is the matter? Somefear? Some desire? / I would willingly do anything...

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