Effective Sympathy in Oedipus Rex and the Ideal Tragic Hero

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Effective Sympathy in Oedipus Rex and the Ideal Tragic Hero

It can be difficult to fully sympathize with a character such as Oedipus Rex. Marjorie Barstow’s article successfully evokes sympathy for the reader of Oedipus by elucidating the misunderstood ethics that are central to the play. Oedipus Rex and the Ideal Tragic Hero compelled me to re-examine Oedipus’ morals in his search for the truth.

Barstow begins by explaining why an audience may not receive the full message the play has to give. She blames unimportant distractions to be the cause of an audience not understanding the true morals the play has to offer. She then goes on to answer “How is the tragedy of Oedipus to be reconciled with a rational conception of life?” and “How does Oedipus himself comply with the Aristotelian requirements for a tragic hero?” with the aid of Aristotle’s Poetics (Barstow 1). Marjorie is concise in her justifications and stays consistent throughout.

In the introduction, Barstow explains how important it is to begin the play with an unbiased view and to “surrender [oneself] to the emotional effect” (Barstow 1). I cannot agree more with her statement. To embark on the play feeling pity for a certain character, results in never being able to get an entire understanding for the motives of others. By stating her point in the beginning, Marjorie caused me to look inside myself and recognize that I indeed “[lost] half the pleasure that the drama was intended to produce” (Barstow 1). Barstow goes on to interpret Aristotle’s opinions and stating that Oedipus Rex Appears to have been “well-nigh a perfect tragedy” (Barstow 1). This is indefinite. Oedipus experiences recognition, reversal, and ends with his fall from grace. Aristotle clearly states that that is the definition of a tragedy, and it is inarguable. Barstow explains that the more accomplished the hero, the harder it is to see him fall. “Oedipus [was] of an illustrious family, highly renowned, and prosperous,” he...
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