Oedipus: A Tragic Hero
Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King is Sophocles's first play of "The Theban Cycle." It tells the story of a king that tries to escape his fate, but by doing so he only brings about his downfall. Oedipus is a classic example of the Aristotelian definition of a tragic hero. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as a basically good and noble person who causes his own downfall due to a flaw in his character.
Oedipus is a man of noble blood; his parents, who raised him as a child, were King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth. Oedipus also becomes a king himself when he solves the Sphinx's riddle, thus saving Thebes and taking over the throne of the late King Laius. Oedipus then marries Jocasta, Laius's widow, and they have children together. Though he is a very fair and understanding husband, Oedipus's main concern is always the city of Thebes. When a plague strikes the city, Oedipus refused sleep until he finds the cause, and he, "
To Delphi, Apollo's place of revelation, To learn there, if he can, What act or pledge of mine may save the city" (Sophocles 1257). Oedipus then vows to find who killed King Laius after Creon reveals that Laius's death must be avenged so that the plague will be dispersed.
Oedipus, a great and noble king was flawed by his hubris, or spiritual pride. Oedipus believes that he could avoid what the oracle told him long ago: he would kill his father and then marry his mother. Instead of returning to his home of Corinth, Oedipus wandered the lands until he came upon Thebes. The city was in turmoil after the sudden death of King Laius, and the Sphinx was killing dozens of citizens each day, and would only stop if her riddle was solved. Oedipus was clever enough to solve the riddle, and then took on the throne of Thebes. When he began ruling Thebes, Oedipus thought that he had beaten his fate; he thought that his father would live and that he would not marry his mother. Instead, it is revealed to...
Cited: Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama.
7th ed. Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 1999. 1254-
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