The ancient Greeks were famous for their tragedies. These dramas functioned to “ask questions about the nature of man, his position in the universe, and the powers that govern his life” (“Greek” 1). Brereton (1968) stated that tragedies typically “involved a final and impressive disaster due to an unforeseen or unrealized failure involving people who command respect and sympathy. It often entails an ironical change of fortune and usually conveys a strong impression of waste. It is always accompanied by misery and emotional distress” (20). The play, Oedipus the King, by Sophocles definitely demonstrated the characteristics of an impressive disaster unforeseen by the protagonist that involved a character of respect, included irony, and was accompanied by misery and emotional distress.
Tragedies usually chronicle a disaster that was unforeseen by the protagonist. To qualify as a disaster this event must have striking circumstances (Brereton 6). The spectators of the tragedy feel a deep sympathy for the protagonist because the decision made by this character was done without intending evil (New T-349). In Oedipus the King, Oedipus chose to leave Corinth to prevent the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Even though this appeared to be an appropriate decision, it was wrong. In the process of leaving Corinth, Oedipus came across his real father at a three-road intersection and during a scuffle killed him. Later he married his mother, Iocastê, fulfilling the prophecy. Oedipus did not know that this was his true father or mother because he deliberately made the decision to leave Corinth thinking that Polybos and Meropê were his parents. The disaster that occurred her...
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...t of the play. The play spoke of the downfall of Oedipus from respected king (someone of status) to a penniless, blind, exiled peasant who was scorned by the kingdom. At the end of the play, Oedipus and his family suffered the disgrace of their true reality.
Brereton, Geoffrey. Principles of Tragedy. Florida: University of Miami Press, 1968.
“Greek Tragedy.” http://www.stremnet.nf.ca/~hblake/tragedy1.html (23 Nov. 1999).
“Irony.” The American Heritage Dictionary. 1969.
Mandel, Oscar. A Definition of Tragedy. New York: University Press of American, 1982.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. 1255-1294.
“Tragedy.” New Stanford Encyclopedia. 1998.
“Tragedy.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1998.
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