Oedipus as a Tragic Hero in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

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The tragic hero has served as the foundation of Greek tragedy since its inception in ancient times. He or she serves as a rallying point for the audience to cheer for and mourn with throughout the story, and ultimately teaches the audience a lesson about human vulnerability and strength through defeat. A tragic hero is “a privileged, exalted character of high repute, who, by virtue of a tragic flaw and fate, suffers a fall from glory into suffering” (DiYanni). The combination of the tragic hero’s character traits and the storyline he or she follows make the tragedy an actual tragedy rather than a depressing story with a sad ending. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Oedipus embodies the traits that a tragic hero should have, including being greater than the average man and possessing an ultimately benevolent character, while also following the plot line that a tragic hero must by coming to a great fall through external circumstances and internal character traits and accepting responsibility for his fall.
Many explanations of Greek tragedies and the tragic hero expound that the hero must be “extraordinary rather than typical” in order to make his or her fall more distressing to the audience (“Tragedy” 1221). The creation of the tragic hero has also been described as “an imitation of persons who are better than the average” (Aristotle). The placement of the tragic hero above the rest of mankind creates feelings of fear associated with the impending and unavoidable fall by reminding the audience of the vulnerabilities to which all men are susceptible (“Tragedy” 1223). If the greatest men can come to a bitter end, any normal person would be defenseless against that fate. Sophocles shows that Oedipus is an extraordinary man in the play wh...

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...ble and strong. The audience could empathize with his situation and one can connect to the character because his was not infallible, but he also tried to take the moral course of action through the entirety of the play. The Greek tragedies create characters that are universal and can appeal to modern day audiences, and for this, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King will continue the remain the influential text that it is today.

Works Cited
Aristotle. "On Tragic Character." Perspectives on Sophocles (n.d.): n. pag. Print.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Trans. Robert Fagles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Classics, 1984. Print.
"Tragedy." A Study of Sophocles (n.d.): 1221-1223. Print.
DiYanni, Robert. "Tragic Hero." Literature - Drama Glossary. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

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