Greek theatre was developed out of religious needs. This proves to be an effective way to ensure that its citizens understand fate. The Greeks belief of the time is that one’s fate is predetermined at birth and cannot be altered. A tragedy is a very serious issue of great importance that focuses on one topic. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, sets the structure for what makes a tragic hero. A tragic hero comes from nobility and rises to greatness; has a dramatic downfall secondary to his or her own hubris; recognizes his or her part in the downfall; and prompts fear and pity in the audience through his or her terrible fate (“Aristotle’s ideas About Tragedy”). Sophocles exemplifies Aristotle’s perfect tragic hero in Oedipus the King. The fate of Oedipus is to become a tragic hero.
Soon after arriving to the city of Thebes, Oedipus a great thinker, solves the riddle of the Sphinx and hence ends the Sphinx’s reign of terror on the city and is proclaimed king. He is then called the “noblest of men!” (Sophocles. Prologue. 46). A hateful plague has taken over the city and leaves it barren. The people of Thebes have come to their king, Oedipus and ask for his help. Oedipus has saved the city once before and has been raised to the status of king for his efforts. He is proud of his status and enjoys being their rescuer so, therefore, he will do what it takes to save them once again. (Cook 4). He states that “to do all that he can / to help another is man’s noblest labor” (Sophocles. Episode I. 319-320). Creon, Oedipus’s brother-in-law, has been to see a prophet who informs him that the city is polluted by the inhabitance of the murderer of King Laius and the plague will not be lifted until the perpetrator is no longer amongst them. Determined to “save the day” Oedipus announces to the people of Thebes that if anyone knows who the murderer is, they must step forward or be exiled from the city. He continues, “all men shall drive him from their homes: for he / is the pollution that the god-sent Pythian / response has only now revealed to me” (Sophocles. Episode I. 246-248). Oedipus is a noble and honorable man and he states that “if he is at my hearth / and in my home, and I have knowledge of him, / may the curse pronounced on others come to me” (Sophocles. Episode I. 254-256). Oedipus believes that he is going to save the people of Thebes but in reality he is the one destroying them.
Not only is Oedipus inadvertently destroying the people of Thebes with his insistence in the pursuit of the murderer of Laius; but this will also be the cause of his own downfall. Tiresias the seer, refuses to reveal who the murderer of Laius is, Oedipus becomes outraged and begins to accuse Tiresias of betrayal. Both Oedipus and Tiresias continue to argue and their tempers rise to the point of madness, until Tiresias breaks and states:
I charge you to abide
by the decree you have announced: from this day
say no word to either these or me,
for you are...