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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