Oedipus: The Reign of a Tragic Hero

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The time period of Greek theater’s popularity was a very influential time in our world’s history. Without knowing what Greek theater was all about, how can someone expect to truly understand a tragic play and the history it comes with? The history behind the character of Oedipus, in the play Oedipus the King, is very complicated. His intricate past dealing with prophecies, family members, and murder is the main focus of the story. 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.

Greek Tragedy Theater rose to its peak in Athens around the 5th century BCE. This history of the theater came from the citizens wanting to honor their gods with traditional stories, however, the tragedies were most often based off of early Greek mythology. These dramas were most likely written by one of the famous Greek authors, Aeschylus, Euripides, or Sophocles. According to The Ancient History Encyclopedia, tragedy plays were based on serious topics that taught a moral of right and wrong. An important part of every Greek tragedy was the incorporation of a tragic hero. In the famous play Oedipus the King, the writer, Sophocles, promotes added emphasis on this main character and their trials and hardships throughout the story.

In order to understand what playwright, Sophocles, was trying to express through his Greek tragedy, you have to know the definition of a tragic hero. The meaning of a tragic hero is best explained Aristotle’s definition of the term found in the book, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. He writes that a tragic he...

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Knox, Bernard. "Chapter 1/ Hero." Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles' Tragic Hero and His Time. New Haven: Yale UP, 1998. 3-52. Print.

"Oedipus." Key Terms in Literary Theory. London: Continuum, 2012. Credo Reference. Web. 4 March 2014.

Sheehan, Sean. "Chapter 3/ Overview of Themes." Sophocles' Oedipus the King: A Reader's Guide. London: Continuum, 2012. 36-55. Print.

Sheehan, Sean. "Chapter 4/ Reading Oedipus." Sophocles' Oedipus the King: A Reader's Guide. London: Continuum, 2012. 56-101. Print

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