Oedipus the King: A Greek Tragic Hero

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Many Greek tragedies include a central character known as "the tragic hero." In the play, Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, the character Oedipus, portrays to the reader the necessary, central, tragic hero. According to Aristotle, "a tragic hero has a supreme pride" (Jones. Pg. 133). That pride is a reflection of arrogance and conceit that suggests superiority to man and equality with the gods. Students of religion are often taught that "pride Goethe before the fall." In Oedipus' situation, his pride, coupled with religious fervor and other human emotions like guilt, lead to what can only be described as a downfall of enormous and costly proportions, in other words, his fate.

The dictionary characterizes a downfall as, "a sudden fall (as from high rank)." The first few lines of the play show the reader that one reason for Oedipus' "sudden fall" stem from two serious flaws, conceit and pride. Oedipus' conceit and pride is apparent when he says to the priest, "Here I am myself--you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus" (Glencoe Literature. Pg. 264. Lines 7-9). The bragging nature in which Oedipus says, "you all know me," shows to the reader that Oedipus has a self-centered attitude toward life and towards others. This attitude stems from the fact that he and he alone solved the riddle of the evil sphinx, saving the city and the people of Thebes, and granting him kingship over the lands. Unfortunately for Oedipus, conceit and pride are only half his problem, the other half stems from Greek religion, and that means "the Greek gods," Zeus and Apollo. Once again, trouble reigns in the city of Thebes. The city's trouble and the gods' religious stronghold, lead Oedipus in a direction that can only be describe...

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...wer, choice, and fate; the four driving forces behind the character of Oedipus, and it is in those forces that Oedipus can assign the blame for his misfortune. "A Greek Tragedy shows how great men and women, although they may have fine ideals, sometimes end in failure and misery" (Schoenheim. The New Book of Knowledge. Pg. 351. Lines 35-38).

Works Cited

Hogan, James. A Commentary on the Plays of Sophocles. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.

Jones, John. On Aristotle and Greek Tragedy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Schoenheim, Ursula. "Greek Language and Literature." The New Book of Knowledge. Canada: Grolier Publishing Inc, 2002. Page 351

Sophocles. "Oedipus the King." Glencoe Literature: The Readers Choice, World Literature. Ed. Chin, Beverly Ann, et al. Columbus, OH: Glencoe, 2002. Pages 263-322.

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