Tragic Heroes of The Iliad and Oedipus Rex Analysis

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Calvin Coolidge once said, “Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion” (brainyquote.com). Heroes are among one of the most popular literary figures of all time. A Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote his notion of classic from of heroism called tragic heroism in his work entitled Poetics. In Poetics, Aristotle explains that there are certain qualities that a tragic hero has that can qualify him or her as tragically heroic. Two Grecian literary legends, Achilles from Homer’s Iliad and Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, fit the description of an Aristotelian tragic hero. Achilles, from Homer’s The Iliad, is a tragic hero. Achilles’s quick rage coincides with a key characteristic of a tragic hero. Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae takes Briseis, Achilles’s prize, or woman. This act is an insult to him, as it is betraying Agamemnon as a more powerful figure, which makes Achilles seem like less of a man. Achilles is enraged by this act of self-righteousness; Homer writes, “Should he draw sharp sword at his hip, thrust though the ranks and kill Agamemnon now? - or check his rage and beat his own fury down?” (371) Achilles’s rage, or hamartia, is very apparent within his thoughts. Just being told that his prize was taken brought out a monstrous rage in him, a rage that contemplated killing Agamemnon because it made Achilles seem helpless. His arrogant temper, his tragic flaw, per Aristotle’s Poetics, can classify him as a tragic hero. Another factor of a tragic heroism that is present in Achilles is his noble stature. His mother, the sea goddess Thetis, has gone to Olympia on the behalf of Achilles to persuade Zeus, the king of the gods, to help the Trojans defeat the Achaeans. Achilles’s demigod standing is revealed when Homer writes, ... ... middle of paper ... ...status. Sophocles’s titular character Oedipus is also a tragic hero because of his hamartia that causes his undeserved downfall. These two Grecian literary legends can be defined as Aristotelian heroes. Though Aristotle’s ideas of tragic heroism have been disputed and expanded, his notion of tragic heroism has left its mark some of the world’s most renowned literature. Works Cited Aristotle. Poetics. Tans. S.H. Butcher. The Internet Classics Archive. Web Atomic and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 13 Sept. 2007. 4 Nov. 2008 http://classics.mit.edu/. Calvin Coolidge. 2001-2013 brainyquote.com. November 7, 2012 Homer. The Iliad. Prentice Hall Literature: World Masterpieces. Boston: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print. Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Prentice Hall Literature: World Masterpieces. Boston: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

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