The Greek Tragedy of Oedipus the King

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A Greek tragedy is one with a tragic outcome that is an inevitable result of the key character's personal flaws. It is a calamity he or she was destined to. However, is it possible that a hero’s laudable qualities could lead to his or her catastrophic fate? Oedipus demonstrates several admirable qualities that are portrayed throughout Oedipus the King by Sophocles. Compassion, diligence, and justness are three qualities that contribute to the internal struggles that Oedipus faces resulting in his appalling downfall. Taking a deeper look into understanding these virtuous qualities will depict how it led to Oedipus’s horrendous demise.
Firstly, it is shocking to hear that having compassion for others could be negative. In fact for Oedipus, his deep compassion and love for his people cost him his life. The first instance of Oedipus’s compassion for the individuals in his city is shown in the very opening lines of this drama when he calls them his “children” (line 1). He treats his people much like his own children by protecting them in all ways possible. Line 13 reassures his compassion when Oedipus states, “You can trust me; I am ready to help.” When Oedipus learned about the plague and how hurt his “children” were, he was exceedingly ready to help them cease their suffering. He ascertained that “[his people] are sick to death… / but sick as you are, not one is sick as I” (72-73). He grieved for everyone in the city of Thebes, and was willing to take any measures to make the misery vanish. He was only later to learn, that to stop the misery of the people and on himself, Oedipus must take his own life. If Oedipus’s did not hold such a strong compassion, his death could have had the probability of being avoided. Therefore, the posit...

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...to make his own death be excruciatingly gruesome when it could have been short and remorseful.
Ultimately, this Greek tragedy demonstrates that a hero’s respectable traits can be factors in producing his or her dramatic downfall. Oedipus did have negative qualities that anticipated his death, but his compassion, diligence, and justness, all being desirable qualities, led him to his fatality even more so. But then again, would Oedipus have been a noble king if he was lacking those three qualities? Would he have even been given the position of king in the first place? Therefore, just as a leopard cannot change its spots, Oedipus could not change his destiny that was to come.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Trans. Robert Fagles. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. 1125-1166. Print.

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