Character Flaws and Tragedy

Topics: Oedipus, Sophocles, Tragedy Pages: 7 (2430 words) Published: September 28, 2007
The forces that drive men to make decisions, and the results that follow, are complex aspects within human nature and must be constantly attended to so that the resulting consequences do not create circumstances and situations that are worse than the original. The dilemma is how to do this, and what does it take to make the right decisions. How does a man determine truth from rumor? How does he react to information that is against his moral standards? How does he remain fair and just in the face of suspicion and doubt? There has to be, within the man's character, a set of values and principles that enables him to draw the right conclusions and act with clarity, which will ensure results that are minimally damaging to those involved.

This assignment, being a topic of my own choosing focusing primarily on Hamlet, while incorporating other readings, discussions, etc, will be presented in an extemporaneous fashion. In past research I came across an article by Paul Graham "The age of the Essay" that said, "In a real essay you don't take a position and defend it. You notice a door that's ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what's inside." (4) With that I would like to attempt to take Oedipus, Hamlet, and Dante and present my final paper (essay) on consequences. What are the consequences of one's actions, thoughts, and deeds? What do these three men teach us today about choices we make, and why we make those choices when faced with truths and situations we don't like?

Consequences are the direct result of actions. Actions are more often a physical response, but can also be emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual. Actions can be taken against someone or some thing. The key is to make the choice for the correct action that will result in the best consequences. Obviously, none of these men's choices led to very good consequences, but together they give a lesson on what it takes to make right choices for good results.

All three works are "tragedies", which, in the end, results in grief for most, if not all, of the main characters. Tragedy requires certain elements: A certain amount of fanaticism that pushes one beyond reason; a certain amount of confusion – lots of questions, things aren't as clear as we wish they were; a certain amount of regret – wishing things could have been different; there is illusion where we misinterpret the information that is there; and there is delusion, shame, and passion – these probably being the most intense emotionally as they are key factors involved in severe mental disorders, personal disgrace, and violent emotions. All of these are common threads to all three works, but are they the real motivators behind each main character's actions?

Oedipus, the earliest work of the three and Sophocles' interpretation of a play, presents us with a man who is the Greek King of Thebes. He is an intellectual man who tries to be fair with the citizens of Thebes by being open and up front with information he is given, as when Creon brings him news from the oracle concerning what plagues Thebes, and Oedipus orders Creon to "Speak before all!" (4) In whatever situation he has to deal with, Oedipus is one to seek as much information as he can in order to get to the truth so that he can make the right decision. But once he gets the information, he acts almost too quickly making a decision or proclamation. An example of this rashness is his quick judgment about the guilt and punishment of the man who killed his father (the king before Oedipus and the first husband of Oedipus' present wife), before he actually knew who the killer was. But as he gathers more information and realizes the horrible possibilities, that quick proclamation actually becomes his judgment and sentence upon himself. To a certain extent, Oedipus also has a problem accepting information given him and being able to see the real truth in that information. He tries to hold on to his belief that he grew up with...

Cited: Sources
Pinsky, Robert. The Inferno of Dante. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1991.
Thompson, Ann, and Neil Taylor (edited by). Hamlet. Arden Shakespeare, 2006.
Graham, Paul. "The Age of the Essay". September 2004. 11/28/2006.
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