Oedipus the King: A Tragic Hero

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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. Action within Greek tragedies commonly comes from inner conflicts. These actions are also intended to create feelings of pity and fear within an individual (“Greek Theatre History Notes,” 2011). Greek tragedy also holds that the hero of the play, who is a good person yet not perfect, must fall from his or her position of nobility, grace, or power. Additionally, Greek tragedy contends that the audience must experience catharsis after tragic events happen and that the hero is left to face the world by him or herself (“Greek Theatre History Notes”). Aristotle defined tragedy as,

[An] imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such e...

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