Dictionary.com states that hamartia is “the flaw in character which leads to the downfall of the protagonist in a tragedy”. Oedipus, in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, embodies the idea of hamartia. Oedipus is first portrayed as the ideal Athenian hero and most perfect king, only to, as the plot thickens, be revealed to have many key character flaws, which still cause him to be a “hero” of sorts, albeit a tragic one, but a hero still. Through the evidence presented from the text and secondary sources, Oedipus’s three major character flaws (determination, anger, and hubris) become known, showing his true transformation from the perfect “omniscient” king to a blind, but now truly sagacious, man, ...view middle of the document...
When Oedipus comes to Thebes, the city is suffering from the riddle of the Sphinx. After Oedipus solves this mighty riddle, he is believed to be the most knowledgeable and powerful man. He is portrayed as an omniscient king, who sees and knows the answers to all. His confidence and determination to know all the answers helps portray him as the ideal Athenian, when in reality, these are simply tragic character flaws that helps him be truly erudite.
Oedipus’s first character flaw, determination, is backed up by concrete evidence that shows his transformation from the perfect king to the perfect tragic hero. With the plague on the city of Thebes, Oedipus is determined to save his city. After learning from the Delphi that he has to “drive the corruption from the land…” (Sophocles). Creon explains to Oedipus that the murderer of King Lauis resides in Thebes and in order to lift the plague, the murderer has to be driven from the land. Oedipus calls forth the citizens of Thebes to come forward with any information that will lead to the death or exile of the murder. In Oedipus the King, when no one responds to Oedipus’s call for Justice, Oedipus proclaims:
Now my curse on the murderer. Whoever he is,
a lone man unknown in his crime
or one among many, let that man drag out
his life in agony, step by painful step-
I curse myself as well…if by any chance
He proves to be an intimate of our house,
Here at my hearth, with my full knowledge,
May the curse I just called down on him strike me! (Sophocles, 280-287).
This quotation shows Oedipus’s supreme determination to find out the true identity of Laius’s killer. Amy Java reasons that “by searching for the truth and trying to change his fate, Oedipus was damned to live out the rest of his life in agony. By forcing the search, he delivered those he cared about to unspeakable and unforeseen fates of their own.” Determination, a trait that most people find admirable, is also one of the character flaws of Oedipus...