Tragedy of Fate or Character

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Tragedy of Fate or Character

By | December 2010
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In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

OEDIPUS REX: A TRAGEDY OF FATE OR CHARACTER

The dilemma of human sufferings is a very perplexing one. The question that always agitates our minds is why man suffers. Is he responsible for his sufferings, calamities, and misfortunes for his innate defects: Tragic Flaw; or these are the result of enmity of heavenly forces.

We also find this enigma in almost all great tragedies of Shakespeare. In King Lear, he says:

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods

They kill us for their sports.
On the opposite, he says in Julius Caesar:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, for we are underlings.

Sophocles’ play ‘Oedipus Rex’ intensifies this perplexity in particular. Just like a common tragedy, the hero suffers in the long run but the readers cannot decide whether he suffers because of his ill luck or his own misdeeds. If we accept that he suffers because it was his destiny and he was not responsible for his actions, then he cannot be viewed as a tragic figure since he would be a mere puppet of fate in this case. According to Dr. Rhoda Sirlin, Oedipus’ explosive and volatile temper was his tragic flaw. It seems Oedipus’ inability to control his violent anger and extraordinarily suspicious, probing and inquisitive nature lead him to his final doom.

No doubt, Oedipus possesses superior qualities of head and heart. At the very start of the play, he proves that he is a sympathetic and magnanimous emperor of the Thebans. He calls the suffering people as “My Children”. In response to the people’s moaning, he says,

Not one is as sick as I,Each of you suffers in himself alone
But my spirit groans for the city,For myself, for you.
If strength, skill, determination, glory, great deeds of valour, strength and intellect are essential components of a hero, then Oedipus is essentially a great hero. He is one who believes;
There is no...

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