Oedipus : A Tragic Hero Essay

Oedipus : A Tragic Hero Essay

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"Children, young sons and daughters of old Cadmus, why do you sit here with your suppliant crowns?", Oedipus asks his people unknowing that the answer given would set off a series of ill-fated events for the inquirer himself. The people of Thebes ask Oedipus to find a way to end the blight plaguing their city. In search for an end to this madness a prophecy is revealed that in order for the plague to end a man must be cast out of Thebes. A man who killed his father became husband to his mother and father to his brothers and sisters. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles describes the unfortunate fate of Oedipus finding out that his presence is the source of the blight plaguing the city he once became King to by solving a riddle. Oedipus does fit the Aristotelian definition of a tragic hero this is revealed through his egotism, nobility, and irony.
Oedipus fulfills the characteristic of a tragic hero by being excessively prideful. In the very beginning of the play he says, "I did not think it fit that I should hear of this from messengers but came myself--I Oedipus whom all men call the Great." He is not introduced in this manner by anyone. He declares himself as "the Great." Readers take note of syntax of the sentence. Oedipus is not referring to himself as being great in the sense of an adjective but as a noun. When he says "the Great" he is comparing himself to a deity or being like a god. Readers automatically get the sheer weight of his pride and egotism. Oedipus shows his egotism later in play when he refuses Tiresias prophecy, "Great store of jealousy fill your treasury chests, if my friend Creon, friend from this and loyal, thus secretly attacks me..." Oedipus uses the word "great" again, but in a different context than before. He is so...


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... adopted parents to avoid the prophecy only to go to the city where his true parents are. These ironic instances reveal to the reader Oedipus’s error in judgment. The error of judgment with the identity of his parents triggers Oedipus actions at the crossroads thus fulfilling the prophecy. These errors in judgment also reveal to the reader of Oedipus’s witlessness and innate blindness to his life, actions, and his parents. In the end though Oedipus was intelligent enough to realize how his misfortune came about and that the result of his incest is what is plaguing the city and says, “Now lead me away from here.” He has come to terms with his fate and leaves the city he once ruled. This leaves the reader with a good feeling about Oedipus. Although he committed murder and incest, the reader is still empathetic toward his well-being and the destroyed state of his life.

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