Oedipus the King and Aristotle's Poetics

Oedipus the King and Aristotle's Poetics

Length: 861 words (2.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
According to Aristotle, a tragedy must be an imitation of life in the form of a serious story that is complete in itself among many other things. Oedipus is often portrayed as the perfect example of what a tragedy should be in terms of Aristotle’s Poetics. Reason being that Oedipus seems to include correctly all of the concepts that Aristotle describes as inherent to dramatic tragedy. These elements include: the importance of plot, reversal and recognition, unity of time, the cathartic purging and evocation of pity and fear, the presence of a fatal flaw in the “hero”, and the use of law of probability.
Aristotle says the plot must be composed of “clearly defined problems for characters to solve.” The main set of clearly defined problems laid out for the character Oedipus, is that he must find a way to avoid the prophecy. His actions afterwards then spur the plot which leads to other problems down the road. The plot is to be in chronological order and have actions that happen both on and off stage. Events that happen off stage are to be passed on by using narrative. In Oedipus, a messenger is used to recount the events that have happened off stage.
Another of Aristotle’s elements of drama were the three Units: The unity of time, which puts a limit on the action in the story; unity of place, which limits the taking place of events to around one general; and the unity of action which limits events to being related as cause and effect. The setting for Oedipus Rex takes place in the city and palace and does not leave that location, however if anything happens elsewhere the messenger relays the information. The time frame for this story also only appears to be about roughly a day or so, which was as prescribed in the unity of time. As for unity of action, the whole tragedy of Oedipus sprouts from the news that his supposed father, Polybus, has just died; the rest is all cause and effect action.
In Aristotle’s Poetics it is said that everything violent should happens off stage; that the drama is not from the spectacle or gore, but should result from what the characters have done. Oedipus Rex is a good example of this technique because much of the story is relayed through the messenger. An example is when Oedipus stabs himself and when the queen commits suicide.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Oedipus the King and Aristotle's Poetics." 123HelpMe.com. 15 Aug 2018
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=250689>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

An Analysis of Oedipus the King Essays

- An Analysis of Oedipus the King Here is a story where Oedipus the King, who has accomplished great things in his life, discovers that the gods were only playing with him. He has everything a man of that time could want; he is king of Thebes, he has a wonderful wife and children, and great fame through out the lands. He has lived a good life, but in the end everything is taken from him. The priests of Thebes have come to Oedipus to stop the plague that is killing the people of Thebes. They revere him for his knowledge, since he solved the riddle of the Sphix many years before and became the king....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]

Free Essays
465 words (1.3 pages)

Oedipus the King: A Classical Tragedy Essay

- Oedipus the King as a Classical Tragedy Aristotle, in his work 'The Poetics', tried to define the tragedy. Aristotle said that the hero, or at least the main character in a tragedy must be essentially good, but must bring upon himself his fall, due to a fatal flaw. Were the character not noble, many reason, an audience would not care about the person, and would not really notice his fall - from the street to the gutter is not a long way. In today's society this, of course, has been shown not to be true.  Modern playwrights have proven that an audience certainly can care about less prolific heroes, but in classical literature this rule stands, and all heroes of tragedy were noble, and tried...   [tags: Oedipus Rex Essays]

Research Papers
755 words (2.2 pages)

Aristotle's Analysis of Oedipus the King Essay

- Aristotle's Analysis of Oedipus Rex     Aristotle is the most influential philosopher in the history of Western thought. A Greek drama by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, was praised in the Poetics of Aristotle as the model for classical tragedy and is still considered a principal example of the genre.  In this essay I will analyze Oedipus Rex using Aristotle's concepts praxis, poiesis, theoria.             Thought and character make persons actions.  They only indicate the basic meaning of action but if one wants to understand how the arts imitate action more than just in concepts of thought and character he or she should explore the notion of it a little further.  Action springs from character an...   [tags: Oedipus Rex Essays]

Research Papers
1259 words (3.6 pages)

Essay on Oedipus the King and Aristotle

- In Poetics' by Aristotle, the author talks about what he feels are the conventions of any successful tragic play. With that in mind perhaps the greatest tragedy from his time period if not ever is Oedipus the King by Sophocles. It fits almost perfectly the majority of the criteria Aristotle sets and so has been considered by some scholars as the perfect tragedy. The main criteria set by Aristotle involves the plot and the plays main character. According to Aristotle, for a tragedy to be both successful and effective there must be a reversal, a "change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite", and there must be recognition, "a change from ignorance to knowledge" on the part of the...   [tags: Oedipus Rex Essays]

Research Papers
621 words (1.8 pages)

Essay on tragoed Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) and Greek Tragedy

- Oedipus Rex as a Great Greek Tragedy     The reader is told in Aristotle's Poetics that tragedy "arouses the emotions of pity and fear, wonder and awe" (The Poetics 10). To Aristotle, the best type of tragedy involves reversal of a situation, recognition from a character, and suffering. The plot has to be complex, and a normal person should fall from prosperity to misfortune due to some type of mistake. Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, is a great example of a Greek tragedy. Its main plot is Oedipus' goal to find out his true identity, the result being his downfall by finding out he has married his own mother and killed his father....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]

Research Papers
1016 words (2.9 pages)

tragoed Elements of Tragedy in Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) Essay

- Elements of Tragedy in Oedipus Rex It is not the tragic subject matter of the text that is of primary interest - but rather the manner in which the plot is developed. The story line progresses as if the reader is "unpeeling an onion." The tale of King Oedipus is well known. An enraged Oedipus unknowingly slays his father (Laiusq, King of Thebes) and supplants him as monarch and as husband to his own mother (Queen Jocasta). As each successive "layer of the onion" is unpeeled, Oedipus is brought a step closer to realizing the true nature of his actions....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]

Free Essays
463 words (1.3 pages)

tragoed Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) as Greek Tragedy Essay

- 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....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]

Free Essays
870 words (2.5 pages)

tragoed Oedipus as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex)

- Oedipus as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Oedipus the King In the introduction to Sophocles' Oedipus the King, Sophocles defines a tragic hero as one who "[behaves] admirably as a man, [but who] is nevertheless tripped up by forces beyond his control and understanding..." (Sophocles 76).  In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is the tragic hero. The force that "trips up" the hero is fate, or, moira. It is Oedipus's actions that set the events into motion,  but it is ultimately his fate, and his attempted aversion to it, that brings about his downfall....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]

Research Papers
1213 words (3.5 pages)

Oedipus the King Essay

- Oedipus the King Oedipus the King is the perfect example of a tragedy. It contains a complete combination of all the features of a tragedy. Aristotle in his Poetics[1] defines Oedipus as being 'a definite example of the form and purpose of tragedy'. In tragedies the Greeks dramatized climactic events in the lives of heroes, and Oedipus' story is no exception. By using many different literary devices it brings moral dilemmas of action and motive to the public stage. The action is set out over the timeframe of one day, which will according to the prophet Tiresias will bring Oedipus' 'birth' and 'destruction'....   [tags: Classics Oedipus King Essays]

Research Papers
1174 words (3.4 pages)

Tragic Flaws in Oedipus the King Essay example

- Oedipus the King, Sophocles’ classical Greek tragedy, presents tragic flaw(s) as the cause of  the near-total destruction of the life of the protagonist. This essay examines that flaw. In his essay “Sophoclean Tragedy” Friedrich Nietzsche agrees that there is an “error” within the protagonist, but refrains from specifying exactly what it is: The most pathetic figure of the Greek theatre, the unfortunate Oedipus, Sophocles takes to be a noble man called to error and alienation in spite of his wisdom, yet called too, in the end, through monstrous suffering, to radiate a magic power rich in a blessing which works even after he passes on....   [tags: Oedipus the King Essays]

Research Papers
3574 words (10.2 pages)

Both of these events happened off stage and were reported afterwards. This way the effect of what has happened is not a result in seeing the suicide or stabbing but in the emotional effect it has on the characters and in the result of the actions, not the spectacle of the events.
The reversal and recognition is an extremely important part of Aristotle’s key notes of what a good tragedy should include. The reversal part of the drama creates a rising action sort of feeling, like how Oedipus is the goodly king who managed to escape his not so nice fate, only to discover that ehh maybe he hasn’t. Reversal is defined as when a situation seems to be going one way, only to then “reverse” into another direction. The event of recognition sort of serves as the climax to the situation; like how Oedipus suddenly realizes that the man he had killed on the road was actually his father, and then how he begins to put the prophecy together from that. Recognition scenes are usually of some sort of horrible event or secret. In Oedipus Rex, the recognition scene is Oedipus finding out that he never really escaped his fate but instead ran right into it. It was Aristotle’s thought that, the recognition, combined with reversal, would evoke pity and or fear from the audience.
A tragic flaw present in the “hero” is essential for a good tragedy. Such a flaw usually causes the downfall of said hero, (hence “fatal”). The flaw is a necessity because this is one of the many aspects of the drama that affects the audience and makes them feel pity and sadness for what has befallen the main character because they believe him undeserving of the tragedy. Oedipus’ fatal flaw was that he tried to avoid his fate and in doing so ran right into it. Many would agree with his actions, with his attempts to avoid such a fate; however it is a generally understood concept that you cannot runaway from your fate, and so this evokes pity from the audience.
That what is going on in the story must evoke the emotions of the audience. That the audience must suffer from a purging of their emotions- must experience the play vicariously. The tragedy of Oedipus, how he tried to escape his fate and the stabbing and what not evokes pity and suffering because Oedipus did not seem to openly deserve such a tragic thing to happen to him. The story is such that the audience can feel empathy, can suffer, and feel vicariously through the tragedy that Oedipus is living though. This was considered an essential part of a good tragedy- to make the audience feel the tragedy along with the character.
The law of probability in terms of tragedy simply means the probability that a given character will react to a given situation similarly with human nature - either through what most people would do, or through what we are forced to do. Oedipus did what anyone would have done, he attempted to avoid the prophecy by leaving his home and thought he would be safe from killing his father and marrying his mother. At the end of the story, Oedipus stabbed out his eyes because of the horror he had committed- feeling that he had to, because he could not bear to see what he had done.
Sophocles’ Oedipus is often said to be the perfect example of Aristotelian tragedies, because is pretty much hits every base Aristotle said to cover. Aristotle stated in his Poetics that the essentials to any good drama/ tragedy should include: the importance of plot, reversal and recognition, unity of time, the cathartic purging and evocation of pity and fear, the presence of a fatal flaw in the “hero”, and the use of law of probability. That being said, Sophocles managed to put all of that together in Oedipus Rex to create the model of tragedies that it is today.



Works Cited

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. (translated by David Grene) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Werner, Jaeger. Aristotle, 2nd ed.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948.

Return to 123HelpMe.com