Oedipus the King
The ancient Greeks were famous for their tragedies. These dramas functioned to “ask questions about the nature of man, his position in the universe, and the powers that govern his life” (“Greek” 1). Brereton (1968) stated that tragedies typically “involved a final and impressive disaster due to an unforeseen or unrealized failure involving people who command respect and sympathy. It often entails an ironical change of fortune and usually conveys a strong impression of waste. It is always accompanied by misery and emotional distress” (20). The play, Oedipus the King, by Sophocles definitely demonstrated the characteristics of an impressive disaster unforeseen by the protagonist that involved a character of respect, included irony, and was accompanied by misery and emotional distress.
Tragedies usually chronicle a disaster that was unforeseen by the protagonist. To qualify as a disaster this event must have striking circumstances (Brereton 6). The spectators of the tragedy feel a deep sympathy for the protagonist because the decision made by this character was done without intending evil (New T-349). In Oedipus the King, Oedipus chose to leave Corinth to prevent the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Even though this appeared to be an appropriate decision, it was wrong. In the process of leaving Corinth, Oedipus came across his real father at a three-road intersection and during a scuffle killed him. Later he married his mother, Iocastê, fulfilling the prophecy. Oedipus did not know that this was his true father or mother because he deliberately made the decision to leave Corinth thinking that Polybos and Meropê were his parents. The disaster that occurred here was that the son unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. This was a striking circumstance because it was morally unacceptable. The audience recognized that Oedipus did not intend to do this horrific act and they felt sympathy for him. Aristotle believed true tragedies evoked catharsis from the spectators (Brereton 6).
Tragedies usually involve people that demand respect and sympathy (Brereton 17). The plots of tragedies are usually based upon myths or legends about individuals of high rank (New T-350). In many plays, characters of royal decent are utilized because this implies a position of stature from which they can fall (Mandel 103). In the case of Oedipus, he was born into a royal family and was also eventually raised by another royal family. Oedipus who was a respected king came to recognize his true self. In the end, he was demoted to an exiled, penniless peasant. This caused the audience to recognize that if someone with this much greatness can experience catastrophe then they can also.
The third characteristic typically seen in Greek tragedy was that of irony. Irony has been defined as an “incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs” (“Irony” 692). ...