Opedipus, a tragic hero

8 August 2016

Sophocles’ Oedipus is one of the most well-known tragic heroes in the history of drama. His strange fate leads him to tragic downfall that leaves both the reader and the audience feeling emotionally affected. According to the definition of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, Oedipus’ troublesome story qualifies him as a tragic hero. Oedipus is the embodiment of Aristotle’s characterization of a tragic hero through his ability to preserve his virtue and wisdom, despite his flaws and predicament.

The Aristotelian view of a tragic hero does not expose the lack of morality or even the wickedness of the protagonist, based on an error of judgment. The tragedy and drama so perfectly fit the Aristotelian characteristics of Oedipus. Considering Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, it can be found that Oedipus fits the character description seamlessly through various traits that he displays and the origin of his tragic fall: There remains then the man who occupies the mean between saintliness and depravity. He is not extra-ordinary in

Opedipus, a tragic hero Essay Example

virtue and righteousness and yet does not fall into bad fortune because of evil and wickedness but because of some hamartia of a kind found in men of high reputation and good fortune such as Oedipus and Thyestes and famous men of similar families (Adade-Yeboah, Ahenkora,& Amankwa, 2012, pg. 2). Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero fully fits the character of Oedipus because of the various traits he displays and the origin of his fall. Even though Oedipus is not a saint, his extraordinary ability to outsmart the Sphinx and solve the riddle gives him much reverence.

Oedipus earns consecration as King, a reward for saving the people of Thebes, which grants him more power as he comes a sacred leader of the city. The Priest addresses Oedipus: “Great Oedipus, O powerful King of Thebes” (Sophocles, 425, pg. 860). Even though this near saintliness has been dangerously stained through his incestuous relationship with his mother, Jocasta, despite that he did not know she was his mother. Following Aristotle’s concept, Oedipus’s downfall does not stem from his wickedness, but from a combination of factors.

One factor that greatly contributes to Oedipus’ downfall is his anger towards Tiresias, which greatly reflects his own weakness. Oedipus loses his temper when the blind prophet tries to warn him: “Am I to bear this from him? Damnation Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight! ” (Sophocles, 425, pg. 870). By losing his temper, Oedipus demonstrates the error of judgment that Aristotle refers to in his definition. The responsibility of tragedy is placed on the weakness that reveals that wrong has been done; however, Aristotle refuses to hold blame to the hero whose goodness and virtue he still holds true.

Aristotle targets human error, opposed to the lack of morality as it the cause of tragedy. Although Oedipus is guilty of incest and character flaws, his virtue is unquestionable, as he reveals guilt and responsibility. At the end of the play, even his anger is redeemed. He displays copious wisdom after he becomes blind and doomed to exile. “…or kill me, hurl me, Into the sea, away from men’s eyes for ever… Of all men, I alone can bear this guilt…” (Sophocles,425 pg. 894). Aristotle’s point is validated by Oedipus’ strength, a tragic hero’ goodness confirms that he is not evil, just capable of making mistakes.

Overall, the diversity of the language significantly enhances the play and enables the play to be appreciated by different audiences. “Aristotle believes that the language must be sweet in tragedy. The level of language used by different characters should differ to depict the social stands of the characters” (Adade-Yeboah, Ahenkora, & Amankwa, 2012 pg. 1). Additionally, he focuses on meaningful language reflected throughout the entire play, and stresses that tragedy must be taken seriously.

Aristotle presents that there is a complex relationship between tragedy and emotions. For him, it is expressed through pity and fear. Konstan argues: The idea that the object of pity does not deserve his fate is present in the definition Aristotle offers in the Rhetoric; in the Poetics, however, Aristotle exploits the concept of similarity in order to explain the terror that tragedy induces. If the characters on stage are enough like ourselves-the context indicates that the sense is morally similar-then we will experience their fear as our own. (Konstan, 1999, pg.

1) Unquestionably, the audience reacts to the sequence of events in the play; feeling pity for Oedipus about his fate and the predicament he faces. Aristotle praises a brilliant arrangement that makes the play more attractive and creates higher expectations: The putting together of the separate actions is very crucial. The beauty of the plot therefore lies in the arrangements which must have magnitude and not be a matter of chance. Indeed, the subtle manipulation of the plot which brings suspense also ends in the discovery (Adade-Yeboah, Ahenkora & Amankwa, 2012 pg. 1).

He thinks that the actions should be reflected through a plausible plot to which the audience can easily relate and identify with for the accomplishment of a true tragedy. Finkelberg argues that Aristotle calls: “for the creation of a full-scale illusion of real-life experience and, as a result, for the audience’s emotional identification with the characters. Only such emotional identification would lead to the proper tragic pleasure that Aristotle seeks” (Finkelberg, 2006 pg. 6). Following Aristotle’s idea of plot, Oedipus the King has a very distinguishing plot that creates suspense and thoroughly engages the audience.

Through the enactment of real life experiences, genuine emotions are created by those who can identify with the experiences and can find a strong connection between the fictitious characters and themselves. The sequences of events do not follow a chronological order, which enhances the suspense of the plot. For instance, as the play begins, Oedipus is already the King of Thebes; however, the truth about his biological parents is not discovered by the audience until much later. Aristotle promotes a plot that signifies a balance of wholeness, completeness, magnitude, and complexity.

(McManus, 1999) This is determined by the length and complexity of the play as it relates to the seriousness and significance of the plot. This article establishes a thorough connection between the action and the plot that are interdependent and fundamental to the play: “Tragedy, by implication, is an ‘action that is serious. ’ The action is linked up with the plot because the plot is the imitation of the action. In other words, the plot is the synthesis of the individual acts. The word “serious” means that the action must surround a person of high class, an aristocrat” (Adade-Yeboah, Ahenkora & Amankwa, 2012 pg. 2).

This description matches the character of Oedipus who is not only a nobleman but also a virtuous and good man. According to Scheeper’s article: “Aristotle refutes the ‘simplistically’ structured tragic plot, which involves a good man coming to misfortune, as completely immoral, and rejects the simple moral plot, in which a bad man succumbs to hardship, as utterly un-tragic” (Scheepers, 2005, pg. 137). As in Oedipus the King and through the character of Oedipus, he believes that the hero does not have to be morally evil, but virtuous. Aristotle employs Virtue and morality as two major concepts in his references to the tragic hero and tragedy.

The audience generally identifies with the characters through these two concepts; in addition to the characters actions and how they can be related to the audiences own lives. This explains the audience’s emotions throughout the performance or reading. As Konstan explains: The context in the Poetics indicates, as we have seen, that the relevant point of similarity in the case of tragedy is moral likeness: it is, generally speaking, in character, rather than age, family, or profession, that we are analogous to the protagonists of a play (Konstan, 1999, pg.

2). Although drama is an illusion of real life, it may represent a reflection of a character that some may identify with. As Gillet and Hankey write: “The reactions portrayed in Oedipus make vivid not only the idea of character traits but also the role of virtue in moderating what we might do in situations that interact with our characters in potentially disastrous ways. ” (Gillet and Hankey, 2005, pg. 1) Aristotle’s concepts of a tragic hero, tragedy and drama are suggestively important.

The Aristotelian tragic hero is a dynamic character with endowed virtue, whose fall stems from an error in judgment, not from the character’s wickedness. Moreover, Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy recognizes the imitated real life experiences and at the same time exposes necessary fundamentals of drama. Sophocles’ Oedipus fully exemplifies Aristotle’s view as a tragic hero, as he manages to obtain virtue and wisdom, even though his temper has been tested which leads him to his inevitable downfall. ?

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