Oedipus Rex

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Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is one of Greek literatures classic tragedies. It

supports and demonstrates Aristotle’s view on tragedy in the story, and ultimately

defines how this drama is a tragedy. He talks about tragedy being “an imitation of a

noble and complete action” (Witt, 165) along with being artistically enhanced with

fearful incidents. Important parts of tragedies also include plot, character, diction,

thought, spectacle, and melody. Tragedies are imitations of human action, life,

happiness, and misery, all of which are qualities that Oedipus Rex possess.

To understand exactly what a tragedy is, one must first understand what

Aristotle’s view on the matter. In The Poetics, he stated:

Tragedy is, then, an imitation of a noble and complete action, having
the proper magnitude; it employs the language that has been artistically enhanced by each of the kinds of linguistic adornment, applied separately in the various parts of the play; it is presented in a dramatic, not narrative form, and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents. (Witt, 165)

That means that Aristotle understood tragedy as an artistic writing form that had a full

story with action and fearful events. There is a strong mood and emotion throughout

the work. Aristotle also says to note that tragedies “influence the soul” (Witt, 165).

Which directly correlates to the previous statement that a strong emotion and mood

should be kept steady through the work. One strong emotion in the story of Oedipus

Rex is anger. When Oedipus finds out that someone killed King Laïos, he is angry and

wants to search for the killer. The same emotion is present when the blind seer,

Teiresias, tells Oedipus that he himself, was the king’s assassin. Other specific events

in the play also spark the emotion of anger and keep it throughout the story.

Aristotle’s point in The Poetics is that a tragedy must have strong emotion to be


Another point about tragedies, also expressed in The Poetics by Aristotle, is

that tragedies include plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and melody. The plot

in Oedipus Rex goes over how the hero tried to find King Laïos’ murderer and helps

the city overcome a harsh disease. Character in the play includes: being a hero,

loyalty, honestly, acceptance, courage, intelligent, taking responsibility, and

compassion. Characters in the play that are important are: Oedipus, the blind seer,

Teiresias, Achilles, Kreon, Antigone and Ismene, King Laïos and Iokastê, the

messengers, and the priest. Overall the whole story has diction, thought, melody, and


Aristotle says that tragedies are imitations of human action, life, happiness, and

misery. Oedipus Rex includes all of these qualities throughout the play. The whole

story of Oedipus Rex revolves around life, human action, and misery.

There are several morals that one can pick up from reading Oedipus Rex. One

moral is that fate is fate and it cannot be changed. Oedipus tried to cheat fate by

running away from the prophecy he heard. By moving on to a new town, Oedipus in

fact ends up killing his father and marrying his mother. Another lesson that can be

learned from the story of Oedipus Rex is that one must be sure the truth is something

they can handle before getting in too deep. Oedipus went to drastic measures to find

out the truth about King Laïos’ death. Unfortunately, he is not ready to accept the fact

that he was the king’s murderer and will be an outcast in his own land. One of the

most important morals that Sophocles implies is that remorse is a powerful emotion.

One should act after thinking of what the consequences may be and how much regret

will follow the action. If one can live without a sense of remorse, then...
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