Oedipus as a Tragic Hero


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Why is Oedipus tragic hero? Oedipus fulfills the three parameters that define the tragic hero. His dynamic and multifaceted character emotionally bonds the audience; his tragic flaw forces the audience to fear for him, without losing any respect; and his horrific punishment elicits a great sense of pity from the audience.

Oedipus as a Tragic Hero

What Is The Tragic Flaw Of Oedipus



An oracle informs Laius of Delphi that he can only save the city of Thebes from certain destruction if he never fathers a child. The prophecy further predicts that if he fathers a son, the boy will murder him and take his wife for his own. Laius takes the prophecy seriously, vowing never to father a child with Jocasta, his wife.

One night, his impulsive nature overcomes him, and he indulges in too much wine. While drunk, he lays with Jocasta, and she becomes pregnant with Oedipus. Horrified and afraid of the prophecy, Laius cripples the baby by driving a pin through his feet. He then orders Jocasta to take the child into the wilderness and abandon it.

Jocasta, unable to bring herself to murder her own child in cold blood, gives the infant to a wandering shepherd. The shepherd, unwilling to shed innocent blood, takes the baby to nearby Corinth, where the childless Polybus and Merope, king and queen of the region, gladly take him in to raise as their own.

What is Oedipus’ tragic flaw, or hamartia?
It is hubris or pride. Upon reaching adulthood and hearing the prophecy that he will murder his father and take his mother as his own wife, he attempts to flee the fate the gods have laid out before him by leaving Corinth. Unknowingly, he places himself upon the path that will lead to the prophecy coming true.

The Evolution of a Tragedy
How is Oedipus a tragic hero?
Let’s break it down. In his work, Aristotle wrote that a tragic hero needs to elicit three responses in the audience; pity, fear, and catharsis. For a character to be a tragic hero and have a hamartia, or tragic flaw, they need to meet these three requirements. The first requirement is that the hero must gain the pity of the audience. They are faced with some hardship that makes them seem even nobler than they might otherwise have been perceived.

Oedipus begins life born to a man who first tortures and mutilates him and then tries to have him murdered. A helpless infant who survives such a difficult start immediately grabs the audience’s attention. His loyalty to his adoptive parents, Polybus and Merope, brings even more sympathy from the audience. Unaware of his origins as an adopted son, Oedipus sets off on a difficult journey away from his comfortable home in Corinth to Thebes to protect them.
By his noble birth and courage, he is portrayed as one who deserves the audience’s pity.

The second requirement is a sense of fear in the audience. As the play unfolds, the audience becomes aware of Oedipus’ tragic past and the questions about his future. They begin to fear him. Knowing the gods and the prophecy are set against him, they wonder what could happen next for this man who saved Thebes. With the city besieged by a plague, the noble Oedipus’ fatal flaw is his unwillingness to accept what the prophecy has declared as his fate.

Finally, the requirement of catharsis. Catharsis is a bit more difficult to pin down, but it essentially expresses the satisfaction the audience experiences with the ending of the play at hand. In Oedipus’ case, his blinding himself, rather than actual suicide, left him the suffering hero who can not die to escape the consequences of his actions. Suffering is Oedipus’ natural state following the horror of what has transpired. Since the tragedy was brought about by his lack of knowledge of his own identity, the audience is moved to pity for his fate rather than his deliberate choice.

Incomplete Oracles and The Choices of Hubris
The trouble with the oracles given both to Laius and Oedipus was that the information was incomplete. Laius is told that his son will kill him and take his wife, but he is not told that it was his own murderous intent that will trigger the series of events. Oedipus was given the same prophecy but was not told his true origins, causing him to return to his home and fulfill the prophecy unknowingly.

What was Oedipus tragic flaw, truly?
Was it hubris, the pride of believing he could outwit the gods? Or was it a lack of awareness? Had Oedipus given way to the man in the wood as he was traveling, rather than falling on him and killing him and his guards, he would not have been accused of murdering his father. Had he practiced some humility after defeating the sphinx and freeing

Thebes, he might not have taken Jocasta’s hand in marriage, thus cursing himself to marrying his own mother.

However, all of this could have been avoided had the prophecies provided more information to their recipients. There is a good deal of room for discussion about who was truly responsible for Oedipus Rex tragic flaw.

Oedipus’ Journey


While the play’s chronological events unfolded one way, the information is revealed in a series of events and revelations that lead Oedipus to realize, far too late, what he has done. As the play begins, Oedipus is already king and seeks to end a plague that has befallen Thebes.

He sends for the blind prophet, Tiresias, to help find the answers he so desperately needs. The prophet informs him that the only way to end the plague is to seek the murderer of Laius, the previous king. Oedipus, wanting to take his kingly duties seriously, begins trying to unravel the mystery.

He questions the prophet further but finds Tiresias unwilling to speak. Frustrated with the lack of information, he accuses Tiresias of conspiring with his brother-in-law Creon against him. The prophet informs him that the murderer will turn out to be a brother to his own children and son of his wife.

This revelation causes a great deal of unease and leads to bickering between Creon and Oedipus. Jocasta, arriving and hearing the fight, scoffs at the prophecy, telling Oedipus that Laius was killed by robbers in the wood, despite a prophecy that predicted his own son would murder him.

A Father’s Death
Oedipus is distressed by the description of Laius’ death, recalling his own encounter that was eerily similar to what Jocasta describes. He sends for the only surviving member of the party and questions him sharply. He gains little new information from the interrogation, but a messenger arrives to inform him that Polybus has died and that Corinth seeks him as their new leader.

Jocasta is relieved at this. If Polybus is dead of natural causes, then surely Oedipus can not carry out the prophecy of killing his own father. He still fears the second half of the prophecy, that he will take his own mother for a wife, and Merope still lives. Overhearing the conversation, the messenger delivers news he hopes will cheer the king; that Merope is not his true mother, nor that Polybus was his true father.

Against Jocasta’s wishes, Oedipus sends for the shepherd the messenger mentions and demands to be told the story of his origins. Jocasta, who has begun to suspect the truth, flees to the castle and refuses to hear more. Under the threat of torture, the shepherd admits that he took the infant from the house of Laius on orders from Jocasta. Taking pity and feeling the terrible prophecy could not come true if the infant were raised well away from his homeland, he delivered him to Polybus and Merope.

The Tragedy of Oedipus Rex
Upon hearing the shepherd’s words, Oedipus becomes convinced of the truth. He has fulfilled the prophecy unknowingly. Jocasta is his own mother, and Laius, the man he killed as he entered Thebes, was his true father.

As Oedipus is overcome with horror, he runs to the castle, where he finds even more horrors. Jocasta, in a fit of grief, has hanged herself. In grief and self-loathing, Oedipus takes the pins from her dress and puts out his own eyes.

Creon’s Rule
Oedipus begs Creon to kill him and end the plague on Thebes, but Creon, perhaps recognizing Oedipus’s basic innocence in the matter, refuses. Oedipus relinquishes his rule to Creon, making him the new king of Thebes.

He will live the remainder of his life broken and grieving. Though born of incest, his sons and daughters are innocent of any wrongdoing and will live on. Oedipus Rex ends as a true tragedy, with the Hero having lost everything. Oedipus failed to overcome the will of the gods. Without knowing, he fulfilled the terrible prophecy before the play even began.

A Perfect Tragedy
The hamartia of Oedipus lay in his lack of knowledge of his own origins, combined with the hubris of believing he could, by his own actions and will, overcome the rule of the gods. The true tragedy of Oedipus was that he was doomed from the very start. Before he was even born, he was doomed to murder his father and marry his mother. The punishment the gods declared on his father was inescapable. Even Oedipus’ innocence could not protect him from this terrible fate.

Was the downfall of Oedipus truly the fault of the gods? Can the blame be laid at the feet of his impulsive, reckless, violent father? Or was the flaw in Oedipus himself, who tried to flee and prevent what had been prophesized? Even Jocasta shares in the blame, ignoring her husband’s wishes and allowing his infant son to live. Her unwillingness to murder the infant was noble, but she gave him away to strangers, leaving his fate to the cruelty of the gods.

There were three lessons in Sophocles’ play. The first was that the will of the gods is absolute. Humanity can not defeat what has been determined for their life. The second was that believing one might circumvent fate is foolishness. Hubris will bring about only more pain. Finally, the sins of the father can, and often do, carry down to the children. Laius was a violent, impulsive, reckless man, and his behavior condemned not only himself to die but sentenced his son to a terrible fate as well.

From the time he took advantage of Chryssipus to the attempted murder of his own son, he exercised poor judgment. His willingness to sacrifice an innocent life to prevent the prophecy sealed his and Oedipus’ fate.

Oedipus as a Tragic Hero

Oedipus as a Tragic Hero

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How is Oedipus a Tragic Hero



In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus is a classic tragic hero. According to Aristotle’s definition, Oedipus is a tragic hero because he is a king whose life falls apart when he finds out his life story. There are a number of characteristics described by Aristotle that identify a tragic hero. For example, a tragic hero must cause his own downfall; his fate is not deserved, and his punishment exceeds the crime; he also must be of noble stature and have greatness. Oedipus is in love with his idealized self, but neither the grandiose nor the depressive Narcissus can really love himself (Miller 67).

All of the above characteristics make Oedipus a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s ideas about tragedy, and a narcissist. Using Oedipus as an ideal model, Aristotle says that a tragic hero must be an important or influential man who makes an error in judgment, and who must then suffer the consequences of his actions. Those actions are seen when Oedipus forces Teiresias to reveal his destiny and his father’s name. When Teiresias tries to warn him by saying I say that you and your most dearly loved are wrapped together in a hideous sin, blind to the horror of it (Sophocles 428).

Oedipus still does not care and proceeds with his questioning as if he did not understand what Teiresias was talking about. The tragic hero must learn a lesson from his errors in judgment and become an example to the audience of what happens when great men fall from their lofty social or political positions. According to Miller, a person who is great, who is admired everywhere, and needs this admiration to survive, has one of the extreme forms of narcissism, which is grandiosity. Grandiosity can be seen when a person admires himself, his qualities, such as beauty, cleverness, and talents, and his success and achievements greatly.

If one of these happens to fail, then the catastrophe of a severe depression is near (Miller 34). Those actions happen when the Herdsman tells Oedipus who his mother is, and Oedipus replies Oh, oh, then everything has come out true. Light, I shall not look on you Again. I have been born where I should not be born, I have been married where I should not marry, I have killed whom I should not kill; now all is clear (Sophocles 1144). Oedipus’s decision to pursue his questioning is wrong; his grandiosity blinded him and, therefore, his fate is not deserved, but it is far beyond his control.
A prophecy is foretold to Laius, the father of Oedipus, that the destiny of Oedipus is a terrible one beyond his control. But when it is prophesized to Oedipus, he sets forth from the city of his foster parents in order to prevent this terrible fate from occurring. Oedipus’s destiny is not deserved because he is being punished for his parent’s actions. His birth parents seek the advice of the Delphi Oracle, who recommends that they should not have any children. When the boy is born, Laius is overcome with terror when he remembers the oracle.

Oedipus is abandoned by his birth parents and is denied their love, which is what results in what Miller calls Depression as Denial of the Self. Depression results from a denial of one’s own emotional reactions, and we cannot really love if we deny our truth, the truth about our parents and caregivers as, well as about ourselves (Miller 43). The birth of Oedipus presets his destiny to result in tragedy even though he is of noble birth. In tragedies, protagonists are usually of the nobility that makes their falls seem greater.
Oedipus just happens to be born a prince, and he has saved a kingdom that is rightfully his from the Sphinx. His destiny is to be of noble stature from birth, which is denied to him by his parents, but given back by the Sphinx. His nobility deceived him as well as his reflection, since it shows only his perfect, wonderful face and not his inner world, his pain, his history (Miller 66). When he relies on his status, he is blind, not physically, but emotionally. He is blind in his actions; therefore he does not see that the questioning would bring him only misery.

Later, after his self- inflicted blinding, Oedipus sees his actions as wrongdoing when he says What use are my eyes to me, who could never – See anything pleasant again? (Sophocles 1293) and that blindness does not necessarily have to be physical as we can se when he says, If I had sight, I know not with what eyes I would have looked (Sophocles 1325). In the play Oedipus Rex, Sophocles portrays the main character, Oedipus, as a good- natured person who has bad judgment and is frail. Oedipus makes a few fatal decisions and is condemned to profound suffering because of them.
Agreeing with Aristotle that Oedipus’ misfortune happens because of his tragic flaw. If he hadn’t been so judgmental or narcissistic, as Miller would characterize a personality like Oedipus, he would never have killed King Laius and called Teiresias a liar. In the beginning, Teiresias is simply trying to ease him slowly into the truth; but Oedipus is too proud to see any truths, and he refuses to believe that he could have been responsible for such a horrible crime. He learns a lesson about life and how there is more to it than just one person’s fate.

Oedipus as a Tragic Hero

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