The Writings of Sophocles and Aristotle

581 Words3 Pages
The Writings of Sophocles and Aristotle Writing, particularly story writing, is an art. When a person sets out to create a painting, there are certain rules of composition that need to be followed. In the art of writing, it is the same. There are rules of composition for writing and they must be followed by the writer. Some of these rules date back to Aristotle, who set down some rules for classical drama in his Poetics, a collection of class notes in which Aristotle attempted "to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds" (1028). These rules, adhered to by great writers for centuries, were preceded by at least one great classical work: Sophocles' Oedipus the King. Interestingly, even though Oedipus the King came before Poetics, Sophocles' play illustrates Aristotle's rules for classical drama. Oedipus the King particularly displays a tragic emotion, a tragic character, and a tragic fall according to Aristotle's rules. Aristotle says that a tragedy should "imitate actions which excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation" (1036). There is certainly little as pitiful as Jocasta's anguish as she begins to suspect the truth about the man she has loved (Sophocles 1317-1342). Of course, the most profoundly pathetic scene in Oedipus the King occurs off stage, in the bed chamber of the King and Queen. There, as described by the servant, Oedipus discovers Jocasta's body where she hung herself from a rafter. He then takes the broaches from Jocasta's dress and stabs his eyes with the sharp pins on the back of the broaches, over and over until his eyes were pulp (1600-1637). This is certainly sufficient to, in Aristotle's words, "excite pity" (1036). Aristotle also describes a tragic character, a hero of sorts who is a good and virtuous person, but who destroys himself by a particular flaw or error (1036). In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is just such a character. He is described in glowing terms as "more like a god than any man alive" (66). He is called "greater than any man" (52). He exclaims "nothing can dishonor me, ever" (1355-1356). Yet he is condemned to murder his father and to sleep with his mother (1481-1484). He has attempted to escape his fate, as his parents attempted to escape theirs, and in doing so he has made that fate possible.

More about The Writings of Sophocles and Aristotle

Open Document