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Oedipus The King: Does Oedipus Satisfy The Definition Of A Good Man?

1436 words - 6 pages

Does Oedipus Satisfy the Definition of a Good Man?

     As a young man, Oedipus learned of his fate to kill his father and marry his mother.  Oedipus flees to a distant land to escape his terrible fate and inadvertently fulfills the prophecy. Unknowingly, Oedipus kills his father and enters the bed of his mother.  Was Oedipus was a good man who happened to suffer an unfortunate fate, or was he a truly bad person, whose fate was only just?  If we accept the Aristotelian views of good and bad, as expressed in The Good, Oedipus was indeed a good man by saving the city, ruling justly and searching for the truth although his anger could be seen as a flaw.


In his first dealings with the city of Thebes, Oedipus found them under the curse of the Sphinx.  He actually gained his position of King of Thebes by rendering unto the city a great service, namely the salvation of the city from the Sphinx's plague.  Aristotle praised the type of cleverness and practical wisdom Oedipus exhibited in his solution to the riddle as being a component of overall goodness.  If it were not for Oedipus virtuous action in saving Thebes, the citizens would have suffered untold disasters at the merciless hands of the Sphinx.  After proving his worth as a good man and his concern for the citizens of what was seemingly a foreign city, Oedipus was well liked by the people of Thebes. 


The people of Thebes liked their ruler, and he in turn ruled over them in a good and just way, trying to help them in their times of need.  Aristotle believed that good in man existed in doing his job well.  A good carpenter was one who worked with his wood and built things as best as possible; a good ruler presided over his people justly.  Oedipus was a good ruler of Thebes.  According to the Aristotelian definition, this is a significant step towards being a good man.  Oedipus first demonstrated his ability to be a good leader in his helping the city escape the Sphinx.  He continued his leadership in the same manner, doing good things for the city and winning esteem in the eyes of the citizens.  The premise for the book is that he was trying to rid the city of a second plague.  He showed no hesitation to give it his best effort, saying "Indeed I'm willing to give all that you may need; I would be very hard should I not pity suppliants like these" (Sophocles page #). Displaying this willingness to help his citizens and earning such lofty acclaim as being called "great" or "greatest," Oedipus could not have been a poor ruler or a tyrant.  If Oedipus had ruled his subjects poorly then they would not have addressed him as "great," so he should be viewed as a good leader, one who cared for his charges, one who ruled justly.  In this light, Aristotle would have judged Oedipus to be a good man, or more precisely, a good ruler because Oedipus' labor was "for the benefit of others," one of Aristotle's characteristics of a good ruler.


Similarly, in Oedipus' quest for the...

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