The Case Of Oedipus The King Essay

The Case Of Oedipus The King Essay

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The fundamentals that make Oedipus the King an “Aristotelian tragedy” revolve around the key notions of harmartia, peripety, anagnorisis and catharsis. However, to fully understand these key notions, one must understand what Aristotle defines as a tragedy. In Aristotle’s words, “A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language;... in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions” (Aristotle). Simply put, a play must deal with and resolve a very serious issue. In the case of Oedipus the King, Sophocles portrays the perfect “Aristotelian tragedy” by delving into the fate that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother.
Very early on in Oedipus the King, Sophocles adheres to the first and foremost component of an “Aristotelian tragedy”: “A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, having magnitude, complete in itself” (Aristotle). Essentially, this first component sets the requirement that a play must deal with a singular important issue from beginning to end for it to fit Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy. In terms of Oedipus, the singular important issue comes in the form of fate. Sophocles, quite discretely, frames this very serious issue, focusing mainly on the connection between Oedipus’ ignorant attitude and his consequent denial of fate. As the plot progresses, Oedipus struggles to stay calm and think logically in a world full of terrifying possibilities. His goal is to find the murderer of King Laius, yet the result may be quite different.
Oedipus, as the king of Thebes, must handle the issues his people bring to h...


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...s 1381-2). The catharsis of emotions, as described by Sophocles, follows the fifth and final component: “wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions” (Aristotle).
Over the course of his work, Oedipus the King, Sophocles manages to effectively follow the so-called guidelines for a traditional “Aristotelian tragedy”. Through his careful plot line following enlightenment and the subsequent acceptance of fate, Sophocles thoughtfully and remarkably interweaves harmartia, peripety, anagnorisis and catharsis within the play’s text. His choice to slowly and ironically introduce said fate to the audience allows him to frame the grave issue that the characters reveal and solve. Hence, Oedipus the King falls under the category of a traditional “Aristotelian tragedy” for Sophocles uses Oedipus’ ignorance to fulfill his fate of killing his father and marrying his mother.

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