Sophocles' Oedipus Rex as Modern Tragedy Essay examples

1184 WordsMay 28, 20115 Pages
Oedipus Rex and Tragedy Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is, in short, the story of a man who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. It certainly sounds like a tragedy, doesn’t it? But the classification and definition of ‘tragedy’ are one of the many things widely disputed in the realm of literary studies. So, for the purposes here we’ll use Aristotle’s five criteria of a tragedy: a tragic hero of noble birth, a tragic flaw or mistake, a fall from grace, a moment of remorse, and catharsis. By any standard, Oedipus Rex clearly meets these five criteria. In The Poetics, Aristotle uses Oedipus to illustrate the ideal tragedy. Aristotle writes Oedipus is a model tragic hero because he is a man of high standing, but not…show more content…
‘Hamartia’ is a tragic flaw, or literally in Greek a ‘mistake’, which accompanies the tragic hero but does not lead to the hero’s death. Oedipus’ tragic flaw was his pride, self-righteousness, and perhaps even his temper. He displays his temper when he kills Laios and all the travelers with him; “Swinging my club with this right hand I knocked him out of his car, and he rolled on the ground. I killed him. I killed them all.” His temper is also displayed when Teiresias reveals his fate and the answer to the question that he has posed to all of Thebes. “…Damnation Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight!” Both of these examples can no doubt be classified under his pride as well, and perhaps even more pointedly because it is his pride that causes his temper; and, it is specifically his pride that ironically leads to his fulfilling the prophecy. His self righteousness is displayed most clearly by his desire to be a hero by vowing to find Lauis’ murderer, as mentioned above. In another stroke of irony, it is this self-righteous desire that leads to the awful realization of the prophecy’s fulfillment. The third criteria Aristotle uses is ‘Peripateia.’ Peripateia is the complete reversal of plot in relation to the tragic hero; or, in other words, a fall from grace. Oedipus starts out as the king of Thebes. In relation to peripateia, the only way that Oedipus can have a complete reversal is for him to go down hill in a
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