Oedipus Rex as Aristotalian Tragedy

Topics: Tragedy, Oedipus the King, Oedipus Pages: 5 (1506 words) Published: October 3, 2010
One may argue that the Greek playwright, Sophocles modeled his play Oedipus Rex on Aristotle's definition and analysis of tragedy.Since according to Aristotle's definition,

"A tragedy is an imitation of action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished artistic ornaments, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not narrative with incidents that evokes pity and fear of a persons emotions."

Also Aristotle identified the basic six parts a tragedy as being plot, character, thought, melody, diction and spectacle which he considered the least important. Therefore the controversy of Sophocles modeling his play Oedipus Rex on Aristotle's analysis of tragedy can be argued out since the play Oedipus Rex is a classic Aristotelian tragedy. However this conception is totally fallacious since it is a well known fact that Aristotle lived a century after Sophocles. Taking in to account the plot of "Oedipus Rex",it has a recognizable beginning, middle and end as approved by Aristotle in his 'Poetics’. Aristotle prefers complex plot to be more tragic as it consists both peripety and anagnorsis which heighten the tragic effect of the play. According to Aristotle, the plot of "Oedipus Rex" satisfies all the requirements of a good plot in a very nice way.

In fact, Aristotle’s views are mainly based upon the excellences which "Oedipus Rex" possesses as a tragedy. By defination,the beginnig is that which does not presuppose anything else to have gone before it. Although Sophocles' play focuses attention only on the last day of Oedipus' long rule over Thebes, we do not feel the need of any information about what has gone before, when we read the prologue of the play. In fact earlier events are related by Jocasta and Oedipus in the liter part of the play. The middle is that which is necessary and logical sequence of the beginning. The first episode of "Oedipus Rex" is a logical and necessary development of the prologue. In the prologue, we learn of the basic situation, which is the problem of the terrible plague in Thebes for which the people expect king Oedipus to find a remedy.

The prologue also tells us about the directions of the Oracle of Delphi about the way in which the plague can be brought to an end. Immediately after the entry of the Chorus, Oedipus makes a proclamation before the gathered Thebans about the punishment to be given to the murderer of Laius,on whom he pronounces a curse also.

"I pray that that man's life be consumed in evil and wretchness. As for me, this curse applies no less"

The first episode of the play is logically connected with what has gone before, for it consist of the king's meeting with Teiresias. The subject of this meeting is the message of the Oracle.Oedipus wishes to know how he can identify the murderer of Laius so that he may be banished from the Thebes as instructed by Teiresias.Similarly,every other episode is a logical and necessary sequence of what has gone before it in the play. The ending of the play satisfies all curiosity. It marks the completion of Oedipus' search for the murderer of Laius.At the same time it also provides the answer to Oedipus’ question about the identity of his parents. Also Aristotle's idea of a complex plot is found in the play Oedipus Rex. Complex plots have recognitions and reversals. A reversal is a change from of a situation to the opposite. In the play Oedipus Rex, consider how the shepherd who comes to free Oedipus about his fear of parentage actually does the opposite. Suffering which is also a part of an Aristotelian tragedy is show in how Oedipus ends up miserable in the end as a poor blind man.

Secondly, according to Aristotle the tragic hero must be a person of noble birth and prosperity whose misfortune results, not from depravity or vice but from some hamartia.The last word has been translated as error of judgment by most critics as tragic flaw by some. Oedipus...
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