Oedipus' Hamartia

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Oedipus' Hamartia

By | March 2011
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An hamartia is a crucial physical or mental trait that, in a certain situation, can lead to the downfall of a tragic hero within a piece of literature. In the play Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is a tragic hero with a hamartia that leads to his inevitable downfall. He possesses three traits that have been debated on to be his hamartia: his hubris (excessive pride), his heinous temperament, and his consummate determination. Of these three traits Oedipus possesses, I’ve believe that his hamartia is his profligate pride.

Oedipus was a proud man. After all, who wouldn’t be proud of defeating a Sphinx who was terrorizing an entire city. Ultimately, this pride he had within had eventually led to his downfall. This idea is supported by the Chorus’ direct quote on page 61 of Oedipus Rex. Here, the chorus says,” The man who goes his way/ Overbearing in word and deed,/ Who fears no justice,/ Honors no temples of the gods-/ May an evil destiny seize him/ And punish his ill-starred pride…” This means that Oedipus, the one being mentioned in the quote, has too much pride and that he should be punished for it, which clearly demonstrates how his hubris leads to his demise.

Though Oedipus has a temper, it is influenced by his hubris, which is another reason why Oedipus’ hubris is his hamartia. An example of this is his altercation with the blind prophet known as Tiresias. Oedipus has a heated argument with the infallible Tiresias when he tells Oedipus that he is the one who murdered the previous king, Laius. With this accusation, Oedipus becomes enraged because he held so much pride that this statement seemed so absurd. Oedipus, in his enraged state, says,”… That riddle/ was not for anyone who came along to answer- it/ called for prophetic insight. But you didn’t come/ forward, you offered no answer told you by the/ birds or the gods. No. I came, know-nothing/ Oedipus, I stopped the Sphinx. I answered the riddle/ with my own intelligence…” This insult sprouted from the anger within...