The Tragic Figure of Oedipus Rex
Sophocles is perhaps one of the greatest tragedians ever. Sophocles said that a man should never consider himself fortunate unless he can look back on his life and remember that life without pain. For Oedipus Rex, looking back is impossible to do without pain. This pain stems from his prideful life. Oedipus is aware that he alone is responsible for his actions. Oedipus freely chooses to pursue and accept his own life's destruction. Even though fate victimizes Oedipus, he is a tragic figure since his own heroic qualities, his loyalty to Thebes, and his fidelity to the truth ruin him.
Oedipus’ pride, strung from his own heroic qualities, is one factor that ruined him. A hero prizes above all else his honor and the excellence of his life. When his honor is at stake, all other considerations become irrelevant. The hero "valued strength and skill, courage and determination, for these attributes enabled the person who possessed them to achieve glory and honor, both in his lifetime and after he died" (Rosenburg 38). Oedipus was certainly a hero who was exceptionally intelligent though one can argue that killing four men at Phokis single-handedly more than qualified him as a physical force of reckoning. He obviously knew his heroic status when he greeted the supplicating citizens of Thebes before the palace doors saying, "I would not have you speak through messengers, and therefore I have come myself to hear you - I, Oedipus, who bear the famous name"(Sophocles 1088). Oedipus is "guilty of Hubris- that is, that he is too sure of himself, too confident in his own powers [and] a little undermindful of the gods" (Brooks 573).
Oedipus, a hero of superior intelligence, also displays this uncompromising attitude in his fealty to Thebes. Oedipus' loyalty to Thebes is another factor that led to the tragic figure's ruin. Aristotle explains that a tragic character is just and good, but his misfortune is brought about not by wickedness or depravity but by error, pride, or frailty. Oedipus fits this description perfectly. "The story of Oedipus fascinates us because of the spectacle of a man freely choosing, from the highest motives, a series of actions which lead to his ruin." (Dodds 23). Oedipus could leave the city of Thebes and let the plague take its course "but pity for the sufferings of his people compelled him to consult Delphi" (Dodds 23). When Apollo's word comes back, he could leave the murder of Laius uninvestigated, but pride and justice cause him to act. Oedipus cannot let a murder investigation go by without solving the riddle of who killed King Laius because his pride overpowers him. Oedipus' pride reveals itself again in his loyalty to the truth. Oedipus' constant struggle to...