tragoed Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) as Greek Tragedy

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Oedipus The King as Greek Tragedy

The genre of drama is wide and contains works of varied forms and subjects.

The first drama, on which all later works are based, developed in Greece and

dealt with religious and social issues. According to AristotleÕs The Poetics, a

Greek Tragedy must deal with a serious purpose, arousing a sense of pity or

fear in the audience. The emphasis must be on plot over character

development and the playwright must utilize suspense and unity of time, place

and action. Aristotle writes that a tragic hero is a character who is renowned

and prosperous, not necessarily perfect, but not an evil person either. The

tragic hero must meet with a reversal of fortune brought about by either folly

or fate. Based on these criteria, Oedipus the King by Sophocles is considered

the prototypical Greek Tragedy. Oedipus, the playÕs main character, is also

considered the model of a Greek tragic hero. Oedipus the King deals with

several serious purposes, the greatest of which being the agnosticism

Sophocles perceived in his community. Through Iokaste who ÒÉwould not

waste a second thoughtÉÓ on oracles, Sophocles shows his audience the

perils of disbelief in the gods, since each prophecy made by oracles in the

play ended up coming true (l. 813). Sophocles uses his play to perform

serious religious functions as well as to entertain theatre-goers. The fulfillment

of the predictions made by the oracles led to the downfall of Oedipus, which

created a catharsis in the audience, brought by arousing feelings of pity and

fear for the fallen king. The Choragos gives the lesson, ÒÉlet none presume

on his good fortune until he find life, at his death, a memory without painÓ (l.

1473-5). This scene allows the audience to leave the theater feeling purged of

their pity and fear. The plot is the most important component of Oedipus the

King, as it is of every Greek Tragedy. Development of characters is

secondary, and the audience rarely Ôgets insideÕ any of the characters. Only

characters crucial to the plot are introduced; there is no extraneous action on

stage. This development of plot is a challenge. A tragedian must present a

story with which the audience is already familiar and still make it interesting
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