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Discuss the ways in which the character of Oedipus in Oedipus the King

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Discuss the ways in which the character of Oedipus in Oedipus the King

conforms to the conventions of the tragic hero. In your discussion refer

to how the issues explored in the play have a wider significance than

the tragedy of Oedipus as an individual.

Assessment 9: Short Essay – Drama

Discuss the ways in which the character of Oedipus in Oedipus the King

conforms to the conventions of the tragic hero. In your discussion

refer to how the issues explored in the play have a wider significance

than the tragedy of Oedipus as an individual.

Oedipus the King is one of the Three Theban Plays written by Sophocles

in around 400 B.C. It is a prime example of tragedy, and through the

use of a tragic hero, conforms to the typical conventions of a tragic

drama. Issues explored in the play such as destiny and hubris have a

wider significance than just the tragedy of Oedipus as an individual -

they are recurring traits of tragedies that have been mimicked through

the ages.

In order to examine the conventions followed by Oedipus the King, it

is first necessary to define tragedy. The term tragedy is applied

broadly to literary, and especially to dramatic, representations of

serious and important actions which turn out disastrously for the main

character. Aristotle defined tragedy as ‘the imitation of an action

that is serious and also, as having multitude, complete in itself.’

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is still the first tuning point

today. His idea of defining the form by referring to its effects on

the audience is controversial – especially his idea of catharsis – the

‘purification’ of the emotions of those in the audience. This is the

effect that leaves the audience feeling not depressed at the hero’s

suffering and defeat, but relieved and even inspired at the end of the

play.

A major feature of tragedy is the use of a tragic hero. A tragic hero

can be defined as the principle character in a tragedy who begins in a

position of social importance and who is held in high esteem, but

through an error of judgement brings about their own downfall and

destruction. In the case of Oedipus the King, this role is fulfilled

by Oedipus, who is led by his hamartia (tragic flaw) to do something

that ultimately leads to his downfall. Aristotle also outlined the

characteristics of a good tragic hero. He must be "better than we

ar...

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...of the gods, or even their own common

sense. An obvious example is the plague that spreads through Thebes -

no doubt a sign from the Gods. In order to put an end to the plague

Oedipus must find the Laius’ killer, a task that he was very confident

of accomplishing. However, when Tiresias tries to tell Oedipus that he

himself was the killer, Oedipus, being so arrogant and overconfident,

doesn’t believe him and accuses him of lying. Another example of

Oedipus’ hubris is when the messenger from Corinth comes to Thebes to

tell Oedipus of his father’s death. Upon hearing this, Oedipus

believed that he had defied the gods and escaped his fate; only later

did he find out the truth.

Oedipus the King conforms to the typical conventions of a tragic drama

through the use of a tragic hero, Oedipus. The qualities of the tragic

hero reflect recurring human qualities and thus continue to connect

with audiences of any generation. The issues explored in the play rely

on the way people are naturally fascinated by power and status and

despite the differences in society, are still universally recognized

and have a wider significance than just the tragedy of Oedipus as an

individual.
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