Oedipus, a Tragic Hero?

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Oedipus, a Tragic Hero?

Elizabeth Howell
English 102- B33
Professor Katie Robinson
Liberty University
October 12, 2012
Oedipus, a Tragic Hero?

Thesis:
Using Aristotle’s five different descriptions of a tragic hero, we will show that Oedipus in Oedipus the King is in fact a tragic hero and how his decisions led to his downfall.

Outline:
I. Introduction and Thesis Statement
II. Is the character of noble birth?
A. King of Thebes
B. Real father was king
III. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect. A. Freewill
B. Fallibility
IV. The hero’s downfall, therefore, is partially his/her own fault. A. Easily angered
B. Unwilling to accept truth.
V. The hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved.
A. Gauges his own eyes out.
B. Banished from Thebes.
VI. His actions result in increased self-knowledge.
A. By calling for the shepherd, Oedipus learns that the prophecy came true. B. Oedipus, unknowingly, killed his father and married his mother. VII. Does the audience feel pity for the character?

A. Even though Oedipus and his parents tried to change the prophecy, it all came true in the end anyway. VIII. Conclusion

Oedipus, a Tragic Hero?

Aristotle uses six different points to define a tragic hero. The tragic hero must be of noble stature and have greatness. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect. The hero’s downfall is partially his/her own fault, the result of free choice, not of accidental means. The hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved and the punishment exceeds the crime. The fall is not pure loss. And though it arouses solemn emotion, tragedy does not leave the audience in a state of depression. (VCC Lit Online) Using Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, we will show that Oedipus in Oedipus the King is in fact a tragic hero and how his decisions led to his downfall.

As Aristotle said, the tragic hero is a man of noble stature. This proved to be the case with Oedipus in the play Oedipus the King. The tragic hero needs to have a noble stature so that when he falls, it arouses emotions of pity and fear in the audience. At the beginning of the drama Oedipus the King, we learn that Oedipus is the King of Thebes. (Kennedy, Gioia) According to Aristotle, because Oedipus was born to nobility his high estate give him a place of dignity to fall from and perhaps makes his fall seem all the more a calamity in that it involves an entire nation or people. In addition to being a man of noble stature, Oedipus also is a tragic hero under the definition of Aristotle because his fall is a result of an act of injustice through ignorance. Because Oedipus is a tragic hero, he makes an error due to human fallibility and ends his suffering as a consequence. Free will and fallibility have caused Oedipus to wander down the path where he will fulfill the prophecy of killing his own father and marrying his own mother. (Essay Forum) Although Oedipus is a king and should be setting examples for society, he has major flaws such as pride and rage.

The hero’s downfall, therefore, is partially his/her own fault. This is another point that Aristotle used to define a tragic hero. Oedipus’ downfall results from acts for which he himself is responsible. Oedipus is easily angered and lashed out at Tiresias when he told him that he is his own murderer. (CliffsNotes) Before he could get any explanations, Oedipus sent Tiresias away in a fit of rage because his pride makes him unwilling to accept the truth. These flaws show that Oedipus acts on instinct and makes brash decisions. Oedipus also bears the characteristic of being stubborn and eventually forces the truth of his past out of the shepherd. It is also because of these characteristics that lead him to his downfall. “And I must hear it. But hear it I will.” (Kennedy, Gioia)

Along with being a tragic hero because Oedipus's...
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