Character Analysis: Oedipus the King

Pages: 3 (1171 words) Published: April 5, 2010
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once identified the key ingredients of the tragedies that his culture is so famous for. These ingredients include a character with a fatal flaw, the realization of the fault for a particular problem and the final sudden reversal of fortune. For many tragedies, the fatal flaw is demonstrated as excessive pride, which usually serves as the driving force of the play’s action. It is common, even beneficial, to have pride in oneself, but when it becomes expressed as arrogance or in defiance of one’s fate, it is considered excessive and often leads men to engage in activities that will lead to their downfall. Aristotle (1998) stated “the tragic hero falls into bad fortune because of some flaw in his character of the kind found in men of high reputation and good fortune such as Oedipus.” This attitude, commonly found in men of high station is not specifically identified as pride in the case of Oedipus and, indeed, different readings can place Oedipus’ great flaw in a number of areas. It seems as if Sophocles intended to emphasize the more common interpretation of Oedipus’ flaw being excessive pride, but other interpretations, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1967 film Oedipus Rex, present other possibilities as the main character is brought through the three primary elements of tragedy. In both the play and the film, Oedipus is quickly demonstrated to have a fatal flaw. In the play, the action opens as Oedipus is approached by plague-stricken masses asking help from him as king. He responds to their appeals saying, “What means this reek of incense everywhere, / From others, and am hither come, myself, / I Oedipus, your world-renowned king” (4-8). In this statement, Oedipus’ pride in his social position is clear. In the film, though, he is seen as somewhat insecure, even as a child when he cheats at a game, and then as a haunted man with a burning mystery searing his dreams, both showing him to be a man of deep passions....

Cited: “Aristotle.” Critica Links. (1998). The University of Hawaii. May 21, 2007
Pasolini, Pier Paolo (Dir.). Edipo Re. Perf. Silvana Mangano, Franco Citti, Carmelo Bene, Julian Beck & Ninetto Davoli. Arco Films, 1967.
Sophocles. Antigone, Oedipus the King, Electra. Oxford World’s Classics. Ed. Edith Hall. Oxford University Press, 1998.
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