Oedipus the King a Tragic Hero
Marietta Shaw English 1302-6504 Mrs. Weatherford 21 November 2011 A Tragic Hero Indeed! In Sophocles tragedy Oedipus the King, King Oedipus swears to solve the murder of former King Laios in order to free the city from the plague. The plague taunts the city destroying crops and livestock and making the women unable to bear children. A seer, Teirsias tells Oedipus that he himself is Thebes’s pollution for killing his father and marrying his mother. Oedipus ignores his words and is blind to the truth until he discovers that it is he who corrupts the city.
In order to illustrate Oedipus as the perfect Aristotelian tragic hero, the reader must examine his noble stature that gives him authority, his hamartia resulting in his downfall, and his misfortune that not wholly deserved. Because Oedipus is the king he has the authority to demand information about Laios’s death and become a classic tragic hero. Aristotle’s states that a tragic hero must be of either a high rank or noble birth (“Tragedy and Comedy” 1211), and Oedipus’s position as king gives him power to find and question those who know and punishthose who withholds information about the murder.
When Oedipus is at the front of the palace before the people the Priest refers to him as “great Oedipus, O powerful King of Thebes” (Prologue 16) when asking for help from the plague. Oedipus is highly respected as king by the people of Thebes. He has done well by the people and the city and they are proud to have such a powerful king. Aristotle also believes that a tragic hero noble stature is not illustrated by his kingship alone but by his “nobility of mind” (“Tragedy and Comedy” 1211) and Oedipus proves his knowledge to the people which made him king in the first place.
The Priest also refers to Oedipus as “a king of wisdom tested in the past can act in time of troubles, and act well” (Prologue 46-47). When the city was at their most trying times Oedipus frees them and lifts the curse of the Sphinx. It was then when Oedipus shows the people his knowledge being that no one was ever able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx therefore, making him the “noblest of men” (Prologue 48). In addition to Oedipus being a wise king falling from his throne will much more classify him as the perfect Aristotelian tragic hero.
According to Aristotle, he falls from “an act of injustice through ignorance” (“Tragedy and Comedy” 1211) and Oedipus does just that. When he hears that he’s destined to kill his father and marry his mother he flees from his hometown and falls right into his fate -he meets King Laioswho orders him off the road and kills him and his men (Scene II. 265-288). See here is what causes his fall he runs from home filled with fear and anger and disobeys the king’s orders to get off the road and when confronted he act and kill the king.
Though Oedipus is unaware that this man is his father and King of the ground he stands on murder is wrong and a crime against the gods. Aristotle adds that the tragic hero is “personally responsible for his downfall” (“Tragedy and Comedy” 1212). Oedipus confesses his actions and “[pronounces] this [maledict] upon [himself]” (Scene II. 294). Oedipus takes full responsibility for the murder he commits he knows he acted alone. He realizes that because of what he has done that there will be some punishment or doom to come upon him.
He is a tragic hero because he causes his own catastrophe. Although Oedipus actions are his own fault, the consequences he faces are overwhelming and too much to weight to carry. Aristotle says “his misfortune is not wholly deserved” (“Tragedy and Comedy” 1212) which is true in Oedipus’s case. When Oedipus hears the truth of who his biological parents are King Laios, whom he kills and his wife Iocaste, whom he marries he tells himself that he is “damned in his birth, in his marriage damned, damned in the blood he [sheds] with his own hands” (Scene.
IV 72-73). Oedipus is guilty of marring his mother and having children with her –he also killed his father, but he does not deserve this if he was to know that the people he comes across are his parents he would not have been in the situation. Now Oedipus has to live the rest of his life in vein because he was running from something that was destined to happen. Aristotle also believes that the punishment exceeds the crime (“Tragedy and Comedy” 1212).
When Oedipus finds his mother and wife Iocaste dead from hanging herself he takes his takes his own sight, Choragos sees Oedipus and asks “what daemon leaped on your life with heavier punishment than a mortal man can bear” (Exodos 75-77). Choragos sees the pain and agony the Oedipus has to endure for the rest of his life and acknowledges the fact that Oedipus is strong to have been through so much.
He sees that Oedipus has wronged because he didn’t know but he still has to suffer the consequences which is more in his eyes than a man can take. Aristotle’s theory of a tragic hero seems to have come directly from viewing Sophocles tragedy Oedipus the King. Oedipus is the perfect example of an Aristotelian tragic hero. Oedipus possesses all of the attributes mentioned in Aristotle’s theory he was a king who has it all and is the cause of his tragic fall.