Oedipus the King and Aristotle

Good Essays
In Poetics' by Aristotle, the author talks about what he feels are the conventions of any successful tragic play. With that in mind perhaps the greatest tragedy from his time period if not ever is Oedipus the King by Sophocles. It fits almost perfectly the majority of the criteria Aristotle sets and so has been considered by some scholars as the perfect tragedy.

The main criteria set by Aristotle involves the plot and the plays main character. According to Aristotle, for a tragedy to be both successful and effective there must be a reversal, a "change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite", and there must be recognition, "a change from ignorance to knowledge" on the part of the main character. The plot should not be simple, but complex, being able to garner feelings of fear and pity into the hearts of its audience. Finally the lead character must fall from "prosperity into misfortune" due to a mistake or mistakes on their part. Oedipus contain all these things

A good plot in Aristotle view is a complex one. `Oedipus The King" can be as complex as it gets, with so many twists and turns it can never be seen as simple. Some ways of gaining this complexity Aristotle argues is by making sure the play contains some sort of reversal ("change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite") with some sort of recognition ("a change from ignorance to knowledge") taking place as the story continues.

The examples that Aristotle himself uses from "Oedipus The King" show that the play contains both of these. When a messenger comes bringing reassuring news to Oedipus that the man he thinks is his father, has died, things start to look up again for Oedipus; but as the story continues this news leads to more...

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...rtain type of fear into them and thus make the tragedy much more effective. At the same token while the audience should feel fear, they should also feel pity, "aroused..." as Aristotle argues "by unmerited misfortune." Again "Oedipus The King" arouses that pity for while he makes mistakes. Oedipus is a good man at heart, he is clever, can be wise, compassionate with a genuine respect and love for his people. His misfortune is no question unmerited, he is bound by his fate and because there is really nothing he can do about it, the audience pities him.

In terms of the criteria set by Aristotle for a tragedy, "Oedipus The King" as explored earlier, is practically perfect. Its no surprise the story stands the test of time and stirs up as much passion and debate today as it no doubt did when the story was first passed down or when Sophocles first wrote it down.
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