The time period of Greek theater’s popularity was a very influential time in our world’s history. Without knowing what Greek theater was all about, how can someone expect to truly understand a tragic play and the history it comes with? The history behind the character of Oedipus, in the play Oedipus the King, is very complicated. His intricate past dealing with prophecies, family members, and murder is the main focus of the story. There are many characteristics that complete Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero; these being the presence of hamartia and peripeteia, a sense of self-awareness, the audience’s pity for the character, and the hero is of noble birth.
Greek Tragedy Theater rose to its peak in Athens around the 5th century BCE. This history of the theater came from the citizens wanting to honor their gods with traditional stories, however, the tragedies were most often based off of early Greek mythology. These dramas were most likely written by one of the famous Greek authors, Aeschylus, Euripides, or Sophocles. According to The Ancient History Encyclopedia, tragedy plays were based on serious topics that taught a moral of right and wrong. An important part of every Greek tragedy was the incorporation of a tragic hero. In the famous play Oedipus the King, the writer, Sophocles, promotes added emphasis on this main character and their trials and hardships throughout the story.
In order to understand what playwright, Sophocles, was trying to express through his Greek tragedy, you have to know the definition of a tragic hero. The meaning of a tragic hero is best explained Aristotle’s definition of the term found in the book, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. He writes that a tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on tragedy. When referring to the play, Oedipus the King, many people question whether Oedipus should have the title of a tragic hero based on the events that take place in the play. When deciding if this label is true, we must look into some of the significant elements that make up the character of a tragic hero.
There are five important foundations that I will be focusing in on that distinguish a tragic hero from a regular character in a play. According to Sophocles' Oedipus the King: A Reader's Guide, hamartia, peripeteia, noble birth, self-awareness, and audience pity are five central pieces of the story. These selected elements are equally crucial and are very important parts of who the character is and how the story ultimately pans out.
The first aspect of the characterization of a tragic hero is the presence of hamartia, which by definition is the fatal flaw leading to the tragic downfall of a hero. This fatal mistake is often also known as the climax of the tragedy. The presence of hamartia are common in most, if not all Greek tragedy plays. Oedipus proclaims, “Apollo, when we...