The play “Oedipus Rex” was written by an ancient Greek playwright named Sophocles. Sophocles is known for his compelling tragedies and well-rounded characters. The protagonist of Sophocles’ play “Oedipus Rex” is an honorable man however, chooses to lead a life of arrogance and pride known as hubris. This hubris is what ultimately causes Oedipus to unknowingly cause his own tragic demise. Oedipus fulfills the prerequisites set by Aristotle for a tragic hero.
In most dramatic plays, tragedy usually strikes the protagonist of the play and leads him, or her, to experience devastating losses. While tragic instances can be avoided, there are other instances where one’s fate and future is out of the protagonist’s control. In Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles and first performed around 249 BC, Oedipus cannot escape his destiny and even though he tries to overcome and circumvent prophecy, he finds out that supernatural forces will get what they want in the end. Oedipus meets the criteria of a tragic hero set forth by Aristotle and his fate within the play demonstrates that one does not always have free will in their lives. Traditionally, in Greek drama, tragedy is meant to reaffirm the concept that life is worth living and that people are in constant opposition with the universe.
Oedipus the King, a tragedy which was written by the ancient greek dramatist Sophocles, is often referred to as the perfect tragedy (McManus, 1999). According to Aristotle in his Poetics, in order for a story to be considered a tragedy, it must be realistic, evoke a series of emotions leading to catharsis, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions”. A tragedy should also contain six key elements: Plot, Character, Thought, Diction, Melody, and Spectacle (McManus, 1999). A tragic hero, which is defined by Aristotle as a protagonist who is doomed not because they are evil but by some error in judgement on their part, is also necessary for a tragedy (Aristotle, n.d.). In the case of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, that tragic hero is Oedipus.
There are many characteristics that complete Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero; these being the presence of hamartia and peripeteia, a sense of self-awareness, the audience’s pity for the character, and the hero is of noble birth. Aristotle’s definition: The definition of a tragic hero is fairly self-explanatory, however, Aristotle’s definition of the term is the best description. He writes that a tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on tragedy. When referring to the play, Oedipus the King, many people question whether Oedipus should have the title of a tragic hero based on the events that take place in the play. When deciding if this label is true, we must look into some of the significant elements that make up the character of a tragic hero.
We can see how this is possible by using the ancient Greek drama Oedipus Rex. In Oedipus Rex we meet a character named Oedipus who is the king of Thebes. To fully answer the question presented in the opening paragraph it first needs to be determined whether Oedipus is a tragic hero. A tragic hero is defined as the protagonist of a tragedy, as someone good who ultimately fails because of a tragic flaw or a mistake. Oedipus personifies the ideal tragic hero.
The Tragic Hero in Sophocles' Antigone In various literary works, the conflict between the antagonist and protagonist holds great significance towards the literary works' main idea. In Sophocles' Greek tragedy, Antigone, both roles greatly impact the base, moral, idea, and conflict of the play. It is crucial to place a consideration of the time this Greek play was written because of the style of the context. During this period of time called the golden age, the style of writing for great playwrights such as Sophocles was of or related to tragedy. In every tragedy, a tragic hero is found.
A tragedy’s itended purpose is to raise emotions of both pity and fear through a catharsis. The audience often feels empthatic for the protagonist, as he or she is likely described as a tragic hero. In order to be classified as a tragic hero there are specific criteria that must be met. Aristotle dissected tragedy to further understand the purpose, components, and the criterium. Through his studies, Aristotle formulated, Poetics, his very own book explaining his theory on tragedy.
The Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, outlined a theory of tragedy as archetypal drama in his classic work, the Poetics. He uses the play by Sophocles, Oedipus the King (hereafter "Oedipus"), as the standard model by which all other tragedies are measured. In Aristotle's view, a perfect tragedy should not be simple, but rather complex in its action. It is the degree of complexity of the tragedy, the true increase in the amount of suffering that the heroic character has to go through, that intensifies the use of this device. The truly tragic figure will go through the play experiencing gradually increasing amounts of knowledge which reveal more horrible details.