According to Aristotle the plot of a tragedy does tell, it shows, it explains with its action. The arrangement of the action moves the plot step by step in a certain direction, each consecutive action being the result of cause and effect. It is precisely that structure that keeps an audience’s attention and enables them to identify with the protagonist. Although the play itself consists of the actions that occur in one day, the audience has foreknowledge of earlier events. Before the birth of Oedipus, the Oracle at Delphi portends doom for Laius, the king of Thebes, at the hand of son. Laius attempts to thwart the prophecy by exposing his infant son in the wilderness, inadvertently setting his own demise in motion. The servant meant to leave Oedipus on the hilltop spares him, enabling his adoption by the royal house of Corinth. Ironically, rumors of his birth lead Oedipus, like his father before him, to entreat the oracle at Delphi, who repeats dire the prophecy. “The central ambiguity… [is the] problem of how to interpret an oracular utterance.” His path is thus directed to...
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...her are the consequences. The plague must be cleansed from the city, and the cause of the plague is Oedipus. Aristotle’s theory that the purpose of the tragedy is catharsis, purgation or cleansing, both in the character and the audience, is seen in full bloom.
The ivory tower of those who have so much to lose is necessary in presenting the perfect object lesson of moral magnitude. Sophocles’ hero in Oedipus Rex fits the Aristotelian hero by displaying a man of nobility sullied by the flaw of pride and anger. Aristotle saw a Greek Tragedy as something that caused its audience to pity the protagonist and fear a like outcome in their own lives, thus purging passions that lead to destruction. A man carried through his life in a procession of events that led to his downfall. Generations have pitied him. Oedipus is the epitome of Aristotle’s noble but flawed tragic hero.
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