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Is Oedipus Rex a Story of Tragedy or Fate?

Powerful Essays
Oedipus Rex a play by Sophocles can be looked at in two ways as or as not a tragedy of fate. Author Lionel Trilling states that much ingenuity has been used to show that it is not a tragedy of fate and those critics use Poetics by Aristotle to back their claim, “the protagonist of a tragedy should be a man worthy of respect and admiration but have some discernible weakness or fault of character to which his tragic disaster may be attributed. In some important sense, that is, he is to be thought responsible for what befalls him” (Trilling 5). Although this description would seem to be accurate of Oedipus who Trilling sees as being admirable, wise, and courageous with the flaw of his pride, Trilling ultimately says that the tragic disaster is not brought upon by Oedipus’ flaw. Closer inspection of the requirements for a hero in a tragedy shows that Oedipus does not fulfill the aspect of bringing the disaster through a characteristic of his own, and therefore Oedipus Rex is not a tragedy of fate. Oedipus’s pride caused him to kill Liaos and fulfill a foreseen prophecy, but he acted like any other hot headed and proud man. Thus proving Oedipus is not to blame for the tragedy of killing his father. Another perspective to look at Oedipus is to see his great tragedy as finding out about the truth which he does through his pride goading him to find the killer of Liaos. If Oedipus had stopped searching and overcame his pride all would be well, but Trilling disproves of this point, ‘A Oedipus who prudently gave up his search would be an object of condescension, even of contempt: the Oedipus who presses on to the conclusion that destroys him compels our awed respect” (Trilling 6). It is through his search that earns him the qualitie...

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...n my way/ To a land where I should never see the evil” (Sophocles 42). Oedipus ran away from his family and a place where he was considered royalty in order that he would spare those he cared about of grief from such a terrible prophecy. Oedipus was not seeking to benefit himself, but instead those around him, and instead of speaking to his parents about this prophecy he decides to take it into his own hands. The merchant runs into death because of his selfish intentions while Oedipus runs into his tragedy by attempting to protect those he cares for. Because Oedipus is unable to use intelligence and good will to overcome this situation, he is enhanced in greatness by his doom from something not on the human level and not understandable by mortals. His tragedy is one of fate, divine intervention, which Oedipus has no power over despite being so great of a man.
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