Oedipus as a Tragic Hero - BA English Notes

Oedipus as a Tragic Hero:- Oedipus, in Aristotle’s Oedipus the King, can most definitely be defined as a tragic hero.

He is of nobility, carries the burden of a major flaw (in his case, pride), has determination, his fate is determined from his own destiny and he learns from his mistakes (“Oedipus the King”).

Obviously, Oedipus is nobility because he is the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes.

In the beginning of they play, he does not know that these are his parents, but still believes in his noble stature because he was adopted by King Polybus of Corinth. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus says, “My father was Polybus, King of Corinth…” (Sophocles 852).

If Oedipus had only been nobility, the general public would not have identified with him. Very wisely, Sophocles gives Oedipus a characteristic known to all of us–that of having mistakes or a major flaw (hamartia).

Oedipus’ hamartia turns out to be that of excessive pride (hubris) (“Oedipus the King”). In Oedipus the King, Oedipus states, “You all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus” (Sophocles 451-453), demonstrating his pride.

Oedipus as a Tragic Hero

Oedipus can be seen as a very determined character throughout Oedipus the King. He tries very hard to find the murderer of Lauis in order to save his people from the plague. He always keeps the best interest of the general public in mind, rather than working for his own gain (Johnston).

In Oedipus the King, Oedipus triumphantly exclaims, “Now you have me you fight for you, you’ll see: I  am the land’s avenger by all rights, and Apollo’s champion too” (Sophocles 153-155).

Oedipus’ fate is revealed by his own actions. He himself says in Oedipus the King after listing all of his mistakes, “It’s mine alone, my destiny–I am Oedipus” (Sophocles 1496). This is right after Oedipus took out his eyes and explains that it is the consequence for killing his father and sleeping with his mother.

A few lines later his laments, “I, with my eyes, how could I look my father in the eyes when I go down to death? Or mother, so abused…” (Sophocles 1500-1502). His fate of being blind and banished from Thebes results from his mistakes.

Finally, Oedipus learns from his mistakes. He realizes how temporary power and material objects of this world really are.

He wishes he would have had more time for his children and other such things that are priceless and cannot be bought with gold and silver. Creon sums it up by telling Oedipus, “None of your power follows you through life” (Sophocles 1677).

As can be seen, Oedipus was a strong tragic hero and some would even say he was the model for all tragic heroes.

This was due to his strong determination, character flaw, his fate revealed by his actions, his noble stature, and the fact that he can learn from the troubles he comes through.
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