Oedipus as a tragic hero


Oedipusas a tragic hero

Inhis poetics, Aristotle outlined what makes a tragic hero. He proposedwhat formed the fundamentals of a Greek tragedy. His described of atragic hero revolves around pity and fear as well as what has beenreferred to as catharsis. His ideas of a tragic hero are based on thecritical aspects. The first aspect is the emotional attachment of theaudience to the hero. The second aspect is the fear that developsamong the audience on what is likely to happen to the hero. The thirdaspect is the pity that is associated with the hero after amisfortune that causes suffering has happened. The individualaudience experiences what Aristotle referred to as catharsis byattaching their emotions to the tragic hero. The word was borrowedfrom Greek medical philosophers meaning refining. This means that theaudience of the tragic hero refines their sense of difficulties andthe ethical issues in the shocking and tragic experiences. Althoughit has largely been simplified, Aristotle tragic hero is a complexand well structured character. Oedipus the King can be viewed as atragic hero. He elicits the three responses from the audiences thatare required for an idea tragic hero described by Aristotle (Jones,1980).

Thebasic aspect of Oedipus story that make his a successful idea tragichero is the virtue and nobility attached to him. Aristotle arguedthat a tragic hero should be viewed and respected by the audience.The respect should be based on the assumption that the traffic herois like a bigger version of the audience. Thus, due to his dynamicnobility, the Greek audience respected Oedipus. The audiences aremade to believe that Oedipus is the son of the King of Oedipus, whichmakes his a noble, because his parents were also noble. On the otherhand, Oedipus believes his parents are the king and queen of Corinth.This associates him with nobility, although it can be viewed as falsenobility. However, when he solves the Sphinx riddle, he earns respectas a royal Thebes. Because he saved the city, he was able to dominatethe hearts of the city residents. As a result of this respect, theaudience got emotionally attached to him, fulfilling the first aspectof Aristotle tragic hero (Jones, 1980).

Hamartiais also an important nature of Oedipus which makes him a tragic hero.Hamartia is a Greek word that can mean tragic flaw or tragic error.According to Aristotle all tragic heroes have an aspect of hamartia,although it is not an intrinsic character. This is because if thischaracter is inherent, the audiences are less likely to respect thehero, and thus there will be no emotional attachment. Instead ofbeing attached to the hero, the audience will not consider them asheroes and thus pity them. The failing of the tragic hero must bepurely involuntary and accidental. The flaw in the tragic herocharacter must be as result of the virtues exhibited by the hero. Thenotion of falling should also be as a result of human weakness andbeyond the control of the hero. The lack of knowledge about hisidentity is the basic flaw in the character of Oedipus. It isimportant to note that there are no preventive actions that couldeffective deal with the hamartia that faced Oedipus. Additionally, hewas not responsible for this flaw. As a result, the audiencedeveloped fear that something bad was likely to happen to the hero(Jones, 1980).

Accordingto Aristotle, hubris refers to shaming the victim. In the Greektragedy, hubris was as a result of arrogance, insolence and violencewhich offended the society and the gods. Hubris is as a result ofhamartia or tragic flaw in the character of an individual resultinginto a downfall of the hero. Aristotle argued that tragic heroesusually manifest hubris which results into tragic fall. The tragichero’s pride increased resulting into fate punishing him with adownfall. Due to their emotional attachment with the hero, theaudience pities the tragic hero. In the final episode of Oedipuslife, his downfall attracts a sense of pity from people who respectedand were attached to him. First, he blinds himself resulting intosome form of surrogate death which results into suffering. His prideand arrogance leads him to physical, intellectual and spiritualdarkness. He does not enjoy any benefit of being alive and thereforecan be considered to be dead which attracts pity from his audience.As a result of hubris, the tragic hero is reduced into a wreck(Jones, 1980).

Inconclusion, Oedipus fulfils all the parameters of a tragic heroproposed by Aristotle. His dynamic and noble character enables hisaudience to emotionally bond with him. His tragic flaws results intofear among his audience with his horrific downfall attract a lot ofpity. Therefore, it can be argued that Oedipus is the perfect tragichero.


Jones,J. (1980). OnAristotle and Greek tragedy.Stanford, California Stanford University Press.