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Tragedy Bound Essay

1613 words - 6 pages

According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is a character, usually in a play, who evokes pity and terror within other characters and the audience; tends to have a higher “moral worth” than normal characters; suffers from hamartia, or tragic flaw; exhibits hubris, or excessive pride; and comes to a realization of their mistakes over the course of the play. In the Greek plays Oedipus Rex and Antigone, both by the famous ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, the characters Oedipus, Antigone, and Creon each face their own tragic experiences: Oedipus suffers the irony of the fulfillment of “the Child of Fortune” prophecy, despite his efforts to avoid it (Sophocles, 434-436); Antigone faces death as a result of her persistence in giving Polydices a proper burial (Sophocles, 317); Creon becomes engulfed in loneliness and regret as consequences for his decisions (Sophocles, 349-352). Of these three characters, however, Oedipus of Oedipus Rex appears to be the strongest candidate for a tragic hero, according to Aristotle’s definition, due to his prophesized misfortune; high moral worth as a result of his authoritative position; doubt in the abilities of the gods and overreliance on human judgment; stubbornly closed mind; and gradual realization of the truth.
Antigone, Creon, and Oedipus each evoke a feeling of pity and/or terror from the audience in their own ways. In Antigone, the chorus, which is shown to sympathize with Antigone throughout much of the play, draws out a sense of suspense and sorrow for Antigone’s capture (Sophocles, 307). Furthermore, Antigone laments her fate, extracting sympathy from the audience, by uttering the words, “They mock me. Gods of Thebes! why / scorn you me / Thus, to my face, / Alive, not death-stricken yet?” (Sophocles, 328-329). Creon, on the other hand, initially evokes more terror than sympathy. A sentinel expresses this sentiment by immediately anticipating anger from Creon at the news that Polynices body has been buried, to which Creon, not to the sentinel’s surprise, replies, “Truce to your speech, before I choke with rage,” (Sophocles, 303). As such, Creon seems to incite fear more than pity from other characters in the play. However, in Oedipus Rex, Oedipus incites both pity and terror equally from the audience and other characters. For instance, once Oedipus’s true origin has been revealed, the chorus laments, “Is there, more fortunate / Than only to seem great, / And then, to fall? / I having for pattern, and thy lot – / Thine, O poor Oedipus – I envy not / Aught in mortality,” (Sophocles, 434-435). At the same time, Oedipus displays an act of terror by gouging his eyes out with pins from Jocasta’s dress (Sophocles, 438-439). Since Oedipus has been living without knowing the true origin of his birth, unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy he tried so hard to avoid, and consequently blinding himself out of shame, his tale appears to create stronger effects of pity and terror than that of Antigone or Creon.
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