The Tragic Heroes Of Sophocles ' Oedipus Essay

The Tragic Heroes Of Sophocles ' Oedipus Essay

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Sophocles’ Oedipus is arguably one of the best tragic heroes in ancient literature, but does he conform to the Aristotelian criteria of tragic heroes? In his work Poetics, Aristotle details the characteristics that must comprise such a character, providing playwrights a strict criterion to follow when writing dramas. One character that is consistently mentioned along with this definition is the notorious Oedipus. Oedipus was the king of Thebes who slowly learned that he was responsible for the death of his father and was married to his own mother. This brief analysis of the text will attempt to argue that Oedipus does indeed meet his standards, specifically through his great flaw, change of fortune, code of ethics and the dramatic irony that he exemplifies. However, before one has the ability to make the case for Oedipus, they must first understand how Aristotle defined the tragic hero.
The citizens of ancient Greece were enthralled by plays, especially ones concerning tragedies. Perhaps one of the most interested observers was the famous philosopher Aristotle. For this very reason, Poetics is highly esteemed in the realm of theatrical theory. Marvin Carlson, a distinguished former Cornell professor, considers it “the first significant work in the tradition.” (Carlson, p. 15) He has been awarded this achievement partly due to its enormous impact on literature since its conception. One of the most notable terms coined in Poetics is “hamartia.” This is the “miscalculation” or “tragic flaw” that causes the protagonist’s downfall. (Jones, 1980, p. 13) Some academics contend that the Greek word could mean either an event or a “flaw of character.” (Barstow, 1912) Luckily, our story of Oedipus contains both of these. Another piece of...


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...t of Sophocles’ work as embodying tragedy to perfection would certainly mean that he executed the persona flawlessly. Even more evident of the conformance to Aristotle’s model is the fact that Sophocles actually held a foundation on the concept that was derivative of the former. (Adade-Yeboah, 2015) If anyone is qualified to classify Oedipus, it is certainly his creator. Furthermore, the Aristotelian tragic hero basically adheres to four basic principles. First, he has a tragic flaw, which could be taken to mean an event that went awry or a fundamental lapse in character. He also passes through a turn of events that leaves him in a worse position that he started. Next, he is morally relatable, landing on neither pole of ethics. Finally, his tale is filled with irony. By conforming to the aforementioned rules, Oedipus is undoubtedly a tragic hero in Aristotle’s eyes.

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