Contemp. Themes in Lit.
6 October 2009
Oedipus as a Tragic Hero
There are many different characteristics that make a tragic hero worthy of popularity. All great heros throughout literature and history have been of noble birth, been fated by the gods to disaster, captured sympathy from the audience, and possessed a tragic flaw. Oedipus the King had all of these characteristics throughout his history and family. Oedipus posses qualities that are both empowering and a downfall. Since prophecies play a huge role in the story of Oedipus the King, we see the prophecies surfacing various times throughout the play. As Tiresias prophesies,
“I say without knowing it you are living in shameful intimacy with your nearest and dearest. You do not see the evil in which you live. [...] You have mocked at my blindness, but you, who have eyes, cannot see the living, nor with whom you share your house. [...] Without knowing it, you are the enemy of your own flesh and blood, the dead below and living here above.” (Oedipus pg. 25)
Tiresias tells Oedipus of the history he will soon learn is all true and accurate. Oedipus refuses to believe the prophecy. He does not know he was born of noble birth to Jocasta and Laius. From birth, Oedipus had been fated by the gods to suffer. A prophecy was sent to Laius saying his son would kill him and so Laius attempted to abandon Oedipus for good. As Jocasta explained,
“a prophecy came to Laius once- I wont say from Apollo himself, but from his priests. It said that Laius was fated to die by the hand of his son, a son to be born to him and to me. Well, Laius, so the story goes, was killed by foreign robbers at a place where three highways meet. ” (Oedipus pg. 41)
As his wife explains this prophecy, Oedipus begins to realize that he has a possible tie into the situation and starts to see proof of the prophecy coming true.
Oedipus’ tragic flaw was his blindness and ignorance to the occurrences around him,...