Aristotle also outlined the characteristics of a good tragic hero. He must be "better than we are," a man who is superior to the average man in some way. In Oedipus's case, he is superior not only because of social standing, but also because he is smart ¬ he is the only person who could solve the Sphinx's riddle. At the same time, a tragic hero must evoke both pity and fear, and Aristotle claims that the best way to do this is if he is imperfect. A character with a mixture of good and evil is more compelling that a character who is merely good. And Oedipus is definitely not perfect; although a clever man, he is blind to the truth and refuses to believe Teiresias's warnings. Although he is a good father, he unwittingly fathered children in incest. A tragic hero suffers because of his hamartia, a Greek word that is often translated as "tragic flaw" but really means "error in judgement." Often this flaw or error has to do with fate ¬ a character tempts fate, thinks he can change fate or doesn't realize what fate has in store for him. In Oedipus the King, fate is an idea that surfaces again and again. Whether or not Oedipus has a "tragic flaw" is a matter that will be discussed later. The focus on fate reveals another aspect of a tragedy as outlined by Aristotle: dramatic irony. Good tragedies are filled with irony. The audience knows the outcome of the story already, but the hero does not, making his actions seem ignorant or inappropriate in the face of what is to come. Whenever a character attempts to change fate, this is ironic to an audience who knows that the tragic outcome of the story cannot be avoided.
FATE AS EVIL:
As a puppet of fate, Oedipus cannot affect the future that the oracle has predicted for him. This does in fact seem to be an important message of the story; no matter what Jocasta says about the unreliability of oracles, their predictions all come true. In an attempt to change fate, both Jocasta and Oedipus changed the structure of their...
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