This paper will seek out to explore the way in which Odysseus and Oedipus were created as heroes and how they either missed their mark or did indeed become legendary. Throughout Homer’s chronicle, The Odyssey, are found the feats of cunning, strength, moral fiber and bravery attributed to Odysseus. The tale recounts the days after the fall of Troy, and the meandering journey which took Odysseus back to his homeland – though never truly home.
The Odyssey begins with Odysseus stranded on a small forest island – trapped by the goddess Calypso while Oedipus begins with the oracle of Delphi stating that Oedipus will live to kill his father and marry his mother and thereby wrecking his home. It is explained through the text that the gods, save for Neptune have begun to pity Odysseus because of the great suffering he had endured. This suffering is explained to be of “every kind of blandishment to make him forget his home, so that he is tired of life.
” (Book I) Calypso is intent on forcing Odysseus to marry her, but he does not falter to her whim, but still longs for his wife and home. Oedipus on the other hand does fulfill the oracle’s prophesy and no god saves him or pities him his fate. This is brought to the attention of Jove, or Zeus, son of Saturn and most powerful of the gods. The goddess Minerva calls to Jove to end the suffering of Odysseus, to which Jove replies: My child, what are you talking about? How can I forget Ulysses than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor more liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in heaven?
(Book I) It is through the voice of Jove, the king of all the gods and goddesses that the reader is shown the esteem that Odysseus has gained. Jove calls Odysseus the “[most] capable man on earth”, which intends to illustrate the favor that he has earned from the gods. When it is decided by Minerva and Jove that Odysseus will be allowed to return home, Minerva travels to Ithaca – the home of Odysseus to tell his son to prepare for his father’s return. However the situation on Ithaca has become troubled as many suitors are vying for the hand of the, presumed, widow of the king.
During this debate, Telemachus, the son of Odysseus convened the council and spoke of the trouble that had fallen on his house. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present, and was like a father to every one of you […]. (Book II) Here, it is shown that not only was Odysseus capable of pleasing the gods, but also he was a great and fair leader.
The council of Ithaca, though his subordinates, where treated as his own children – rather than simply citizens subject to his rule. It is also during this discourse that Telemachus calls for an end of the forced courting of his mother by saying “we have now no Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was” (Book II) – which then illustrated the strength and power that the presence of Odysseus commanded. Characters in plays are the designated interlopers between the subconscious of the audience or readers.
These characters translate into reality and become a relatable experience because the hero has one tragic flaw that conquers them, ruins them, and brings them humility. This fallible nature is show the imperfections of humanity designed through sin; sin is one of the many idiosyncrasies which mark us as human, that create specific characteristics and through confession or the confession of characters in a play, this nature becomes like a myth in the end there is death or forgiveness. Aristotle’s definition for a tragic hero is one who is not in control of his own fate, but instead is ruled by the gods in one fashion or another.
The tragic hero for Aristotle is tragic because of their lack of control or will in the face of their predetermined future and downfall. A great tragic flaw (hamartia) is the hero’s devil may care attitude at the beginning of each story, and then their despondency and stagnation of hope that meets them at the end of the play (Aristotle Ibid. , Book XIII, 1085b 35 & 1086a 12—14, P. 909]. In drama, ego is the flaw to which the hero succumbs. This is Oedipus’ great error. His ego is a compromise to his fortune. Even in the gods’ world he stands out as unique or special.
Heroes begin their stories with aplomb of luck, or ego, or a rosy view of the world, and each play seems to end with destruction. Oedipus is blind at the beginning of the play and then becomes physically blind at the end of the play thus making the ethereal concrete. With Greek drama; the tragedy of the unmistakable truth found in the character’s own self-realization is the typically denouement. The playwright’s tragic heroes have survived in life under false pretences, thus they are doomed to suffer from their one flaw of ego.
It is interesting that while ego is Oedipus’ downfall it is Odysseus’ strength for it is ego which allows him to continue trying to find his home even after decades of looking. By the forth book of The Odyssey, Odysseus is still making his way home, and the tales of his exploits are recalled. As Helen, wife of Menelaus, and the cause of the Trojan war spoke of Odysseus, she recalled his cunning and forethought in his dealings with Troy. “I cannot indeed name every single one of the exploits of Odysseus”, Helen told the men, “but I can say what he did when he was before Troy.
” (Book IV) Helen recounted Odysseus donning a disguise and entering the city dressed as a beggar. Though she saw through the disguise and recognized him, she was unable to question him because “he was too cunning for me”. (Book IV) It was the plan of Odysseus to gather information on the city, and kill some of the soldiers before returning his army – which, as Helen recalled, he did. This praise of Odysseus was echoed by her husband, Menelaus. After Helen had spoken, Menelaus said “I have traveled much, and have had much to do with heroes, but I have never seen such another man as Odysseus.
What endurance too, and what courage he displayed”. (Book IV) The strength and bravery of Odysseus, as recounted by Menelaus, illustrated the degree to which Odysseus had gained favor among his fellow Grecian kings. In Oedipus there is another case of fate controlling the destiny of man. Due to fate’s interference in the lives of heroes, it must be pondered whether or not they are heroes because they are devoid of choice and by definition a hero chooses their actions, but with fate, their actions are predestined.
For Oedipus, his only link to heroism is that in his redemptive attitude . His heroic stance in Greek culture is seen as a protagonist who felt guilt for what he had done and this translates to the audience that if a hero can succumb to evil then they themselves, as less than heroic, are more likely to fall in favor, in the eyes of the gods. Human nature is a nature of reason, not strictly adherent to passion or feelings, and in drama playwrights strive to be exact in their representation of reality.
Morality then, becomes the crux of Oedipus Rex. Morality is reason. This is not to say that Plato and other classic Greek writers were ascetic; rather they placed passion, and feelings in their plays but the ethics of humanity are tied into the good of a person because reasonably, being virtuous, or good leads a character to happiness or release at the end of a modern play. The word for this given by Plato is eudemonism, which means blissful. Throughout The Odyssey, many individuals recount the feats of Odysseus.
His exploits had gained him favor from man and God alike – something afforded to very few others in history or mythology. It was the total of every aspect of Odysseus’ persona that he gained this favor. Throughout his life he had shown courage, fairness, loyalty, strength and cunning – and it is because of these traits that Odysseus is remembered. As a Greek hero, Oedipus is controlled by fate: His remittance of gouging his eyes shows that he is a strong hero because of his debt payment of sight. For Oedipus the flaw could be contained within the word ego while Odysseus’ heroism is marked by it.
Ego in answering the sphinx riddle and unbeknownst to him killing his birth father, marrying his mother, having children; ego accounts for all of Oedipus’s actions, and it is fate which had designed ego and thus was the ultimate ruler of Oedipus and luck for Odysseus but both are considered heroes. Works Cited Aristotle. <http://olldownload. libertyfund. org/EBooks/Plato_0407. pdf> Sophocles. (1977). The Oedipus Cycle. Harcourt Inc. Florida. Homer. “The Odyssey”. trans. Samuel Butler. University of Oregon. Date of Access: April 30 2009. URL: http://darkwing. uoregon. edu/~joelja/odyssey. html
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