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Oedipus The King: A Tragic Hero

1009 words - 4 pages

Tragedies have been written, told, and acted out for a number of years. Aristotle defined in his book, Poetics that a tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity, fear, and finally a catharsis, or purging of emotions. A tragic play that perfectly completes this cycle of emotions is Oedipus the King by Sophocles. This play follows a king of the town of Thebes through his journey of the emotions of pity, fear, and finally a catharsis. It is a tale of a man who unknowingly kills his father and fathers the children of his mother as well. The audience is pulled into the play and experiences the plot along with Oedipus.

The emotion of pity enters the play right from the beginning. First, it is Oedipus who feels pity for his people and their plight. The city of Thebes is experiencing a terrible plague and Oedipus is, "filled with pity..." (4).Little does he know that he is actually the cause of his peoples awful plight. The audience then feels pity for this man, a man much like themselves. Oedipus is a very noble man with many virtuous qualities, yet there is a flaw to his character. Oedipus can be described as intelligent, responsible, energetic, vigorous, and courageous. His major downfall is his refusal to listen to the gods regarding his destiny; therefore he is not a perfect man. This makes the character of Oedipus just like everyone else, and places him on common ground with everyone. As Oedipus begins to dig further into the death of the former king of Thebes, Laius, he slowly reveals what he had been running away from his entire life. When he learns of the cause of Laius' death the king curses the man who did such a horrible thing to this city's beloved former leader, as well as himself. He has not a clue that he has just actually doubly cursed himself. "As for the murderer himself, I call down a curse on him...And further, I pronounce a curse on myself if the murderer should, with my knowledge share my house...." (15). The audience begins to identify so much with this flawed king that the emotion of fear begins to slowly bleed into a feeling of fear.

The audience feels so much empathy for this man, they start to think about how this might possibly happen to them. They see that Oedipus has experienced a very sudden reversal of fortune. Here is a man that appears to have it all. He is king of a wonderful town, has a beautiful wife, and four children. All of a sudden, he slowly finds out that all this is clouded by his destiny, one that he had tried his best to put behind him and not live out. Fear enters the play, not only for Oedipus, but for the audience as well. The audience begins to see that no matter how hard a person tries, the gods are still going to have their way. "Could the gods do this...

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