Oedipus The King : A Tragic Hero Essay

Oedipus The King : A Tragic Hero Essay

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Some perceive Oedipus, in Oedipus the King, to be an evil villain, while others a completely innocent man who is plagued by fate. Sophocles, however, desired to portray Oedipus as a mix between the two- as a tragic hero. According to Aristotle’s definition, Oedipus fits the criteria of a tragic hero.

According to Aristotle, Oedipus is a tragic hero because he vigorously protests his situation, believes he has his own freedom and has a supreme pride. In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus continually protests the idea that he is subjected to a prophecy. He avoids taking responsibility for the murder of Laius because he fears that he has lost to fate and so he diverts the blame of the murder on others. Oedipus protests his fate since he originally learned of it. When Oedipus heard of this prophecy, Oedipus travels far away from “Corinth and such a damned destiny”. By moving away from Corinth, he also is demonstrating a belief in his own freedom. He believes that by escaping Corinth, he is free from the prophecy that plagues him. When he arrives at Thebes, Oedipus is bestowed great power by the people, and this power also leads him to believe he is free to treat others however he likes. For instance, Oedipus exhibits this sense of freedom when punishes Creon with unchecked boundaries. Oedipus becomes blind with power that he sees himself free to have Creon executed as a “lesson to all of how much envy’s worth” (34). This power does not just give Oedipus a belief in his own freedom, it also generates in him an overwhelming hubris. Oedipus is so prideful that he disregards the esteemed input of Tiresias and treats him disrespectfully, calling him a “miserable old man!” (19). Ultimately, it is his extreme confidence and pride that lead him into goin...


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...oo severe. In blinding and condemning himself an abominable exile, Oedipus impacts the audience and his country by evoking a sense of pity within them. “Oh, the pity and the horror!” (71) the Chorus cries, summarizing the emotions that Oedipus’ turmoil causes. The change in fortune, the transformation, and the sense of pity from the audience for Oedipus depict him as a true tragic hero.

Aristotle illustrated what a tragic hero should be: a man who believes in his own freedom and who vigorously protests a preordained destiny. A tragic hero is one with a supreme pride, yet has an unfaltering sense of commitment and is a good man overall. A tragic hero has the capacity to suffer and, because of an error in judgment, will experience a dramatic transformation that evokes a profound pity. This is a tragic hero and based on this conception, Oedipus is an evident example.

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