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Oedipus

By iilillissyii Oct 18, 2006 865 Words
Oedipus Tyrannous

When half human monsters walked the Earth and mythical Gods ruled all of creation, one man was destined to suffer the worst fate ever imaginable. Oedipus Tyrannous is a classic Greek tragedy written by Sophocles around 470 BC. According to Aristotle's Poetics, Greek tragedies should follow certain guidelines in order to be effective tragic drama. Many of Oedipus' character traits ultimately justify his place as a perfect specimen of Aristotle's tragic hero. According to Aristotle's Poetics, Oedipus Tyrannous is tragic hero due to his hamartia and peripeteia. In Greek tragedy every hero eventually shows signs of weakness and flaw. Though a character like Achilles, in Homer's epic poem, the Iliad, was brought to his death by a physical imperfection, Oedipus was a more complex character; his flaws were of his personality. His most obvious flaw would most definitely be his hubris. Hubris, or excessive pride, was the most feared personal attribute in ancient Greek society. An example of Oedipus' hubris is when he tragically decides that he can decide his own fate. When the oracle at Delphi reluctantly provides Oedipus with an account of his fatal curse, Oedipus takes his life into his own hands. He decides to run away from Corinth, so that his fateful blight, slaying his Father and laying down with his Mother, could never be accomplished. When the Gods have cursed a fate, destiny can never be changed. Another example of his hubris is when he decides to blind himself for all of eternity. Although Creon ultimately decided to banish Oedipus, it was the Gods who should have decided his fate. Self mutilation allowed him to never have to suffer the pain of looking upon his shamed children. This is a punishment he should have had to endure. Oedipus' downfall would most be attributed to his hubris.

Every leader should be stern, yet tolerant. Oedipus' quickness to judge, also contributes to his tragic flaw. A successful leader should always access a situation after hearing all the facts and allowing the parties involved to explain their own version of the story. An example of this impatience is found while he is waiting for the return of Creon from the oracle. When Creon explains that the city has been cursed, due to the unsolved murder of their preceding monarch, Laius, Oedipus right away accuses him of being the killer. Character flaws such as impatience, can be the downfall of any leader.

Oedipus' arrogance is a double-edged sword, which propels the story forward and goes in hand in hand with his detrimental hubris. On many occasions he is told to stop wondering. Tiresias, the blind prophet who can see much clearer than our fateful King, tells Oedipus, "Please let me go home. It's for the best." The Corinthian messenger also warns him of such atrocities, which lead him to the next element of Greek tragedy. Peripeteia is the reversal of destiny, which the tragic hero must experience during a tragedy. Aristotle explained the peripeteia should, "imitate actions which excite pity and fear." In the Poetics, he further explains that, "the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear; it merely shocks us." In other words, the peripeteia is the climax of the story. In the story, the turning point is when the messenger reveals the King's ancestry. He realizes that Polybus and Merope are not his parents by heredity. These findings will bring the downfall of our tragic hero and quicken the pace of the rest of the play.

If the peripeteia is the cause, then the anagnorisis should be described as the effect. An anagnorisis in Aristotle's words is, "is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune." It is the sudden realization that Oedipus has actually fulfilled the prophecy that has doomed him since his birth. After Jocasta kills herself and the herdsman reveals that Oedipus has been sleeping with his Mother, it is then that Oedipus realizes his foolishness and close-mindedness. The anagnorisis is one of the most essential traits of a tragedy.

After the calamity comes into effect, which is Oedipus' striking realization that the prophecy has been fulfilled, the tragic hero must next go through a catharsis. First, the audience grows sympathetic to the fallen hero, because they are a more larger than life version of us. Next, we begin to feel apprehensive of the hero's downfall. In other words, we are getting ready for it to happen. Finally, the character goes through a 360 degree spiral. This is when the catharsis comes into effect. It elicits pity for Oedipus, from the audience. This crucial step occurs not only for the tragic hero, but affects the audience as well.

In society today people can use the mistakes of Oedipus to better themselves. His character flaws are still found in leaders and normal citizens today. If everyone would read and understand the tragedy Oedipus, it could help to understand human nature and could possibly help someone to self- improvement.

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