Aristotle has long been recognized for his contributions to many areas of society, from math and science to literature. It is claimed that Aristotle was racist, sexist and homophobic and that these views colored the way he saw the world (Engle, 2008). From some of these views, the tragic hero emerges. There are several key components to a Oedipushaving a tragic hero. The first is that the main character (protagonist) must be of noble birth or a member of a royal family. In addition to being of noble lineage, the protagonist
must suffer from a fatal or tragic flaw. This flaw is not necessary a morale flaw, but rather a flaw that occurs as a consequence of one’s choices or actions. A tragic hero will evolve the feelings of pity or fear and cause the reader and audience to identify with the main character. And, finally, the audience or reader must experience “Catharsis”. Catharsis is a feeling of relieve that the main character had his come-uppance and was brought down. It is not a feeling of depression or sadness over the fate of the nobleman. Kennedy (pages 856-858).
To elaborate, the nobleman must be of high estate that gives him a place of dignity. The fall from this dignity makes the event seem more of a calamity in that it involves more than just the main character. A fall that affects an entire nation or people is often the result of a nobleman’s fall. The main character is certainly no superman; he is fallible and has a weakness of character that leads to his end. Kennedy (pages 856-858) According to Aristotle, the ideal tragic hero is defined as: “There remains then the man who occupies the mean between saintliness and depravity.
He is not extra-ordinary in virtue and righteousness and yet does not fall into bad fortune because of evil and wickedness but because of some hamartia of a kind found in men of high reputation and good fortune such as Oedipus and Thyestes and famous men of similar families. ” Adade-Yeboah, et al (2012). The next part of a tragic hero’s role is that of recognition or discovery. This part includes the revelation of some prior unknown fact or element to bring to light the true identity of the main character. The revelation may be due to the actions of the main character or due to those of a minor character.
They may already be known by the reader or the audience, thus making some of the choices the character makes almost painfully ignorant. Often times, once the revelation has been made, it leads to a reversal. A reversal is simply an action that has the opposite effect from the one intended. This reversal may be due in part to the tragic or fatal flaw of the protagonist. Kennedy (pages 856-858) Finally, there is the fear and pity that is aroused in the audience and / or reader. Even though most may feel like the main character deserved the end results, there is still a sense of pity or sorrow that they must suffer and hurt so much.
Now that we have looked at the common requirements for a tragic hero, we will look at King Oedipus as the tragic hero. King Oedipus was worshiped by the people of Thebes. They saw him as wise and came to him to seek help and counsel when their city was suffering. He has freed them from the tyranny of the Sphinx and they were forever grateful. He even recognized his own greatness by referring to himself as the one who was called great by all men and calling the people of the city children. Oedipus (Prologue, Line 8) Through birth and adoption both, Oedipus was a nobleman.
He has been left out in the wilderness by his other due to a prophecy that his father would die by the son’s hand. He was then adopted by King Polybus of Corinth. Thus, he fulfilled the first requirement of the tragic hero – being of noble birth or royal bloodlines. The next aspect of a tragic hero is one with a fatal or tragic flaw. Oedipus wanted to seek the truth regarding the murder of King Laius, believing that the truth would purge the city of the horrible curse that it was under. We see the king as one of high moral integrity, but subject to the normal frailties of the human being (Adade-Yeboah, et al (2012).
He is portrayed as being somewhat short tempered and often rash due to his desire to do the right thing. This perhaps is his tragic flaw – in his zeal to find the murdered, he makes rash statements about shunning the individual guilty of the murder, regardless of his standing in society (Oedipus). This brings us to the next aspect of the tragic hero – the revelation. Through seeking the advice of a prophet, it is revealed to King Oedipus that he is the murderer “You are the murdered of the king whose murderer you seek.
Oedipus Initially, the king does believe that this is the case, but as he examines the evidence, it becomes clear that he is the guilty one. This revelation leads to the reversal in the king’s life. In one moment, he realizes that his wife is his mother, that his children are his brothers and sisters and that all is lost for him. Then enter pity for the king. Not only does Oedipus find out that he is adopted, he also discovered that he killed his father, and had married his mother. He was truly sorrowful for the shame and anguish that the people of his city would suffer “I grieve for you, my children.
Believe me, I know all that you desire of me, all that you suffer; and while you suffer, none suffers more than I. ” Oedipus We feel even more pity for him when his wife and mother hangs herself and he puts his own eyes out “He was called my king, but now whose tale is more miserable? ” Oedipus As Oedipus loses his throne, his thoughts are of those around him who he has hurt – the people of Thebes and his children (who are also his brothers and sisters). He leaves them in the care of their uncle Creon. Before leaving them, he tells them how sorry he is “For the unhappiness that must be yours: And for the bitter life that you must lead.
” Oedipus In conclusion, Oedipus has all of the criteria for a tragic hero. He is a nobleman, through choices and actions experienced a fall from greatness and his throne and aroused the pity of the reader and audience. Aristotle speaks of a tragic hero’s Harmatia or his tragic flaw being not one of moral roots, but rather one that is displayed through the choices and actions of the character. It is quite apparent that had Oedipus not killed his father, then the other events of marrying his mother, fathering his brothers and sisters, losing his site and his throne would not have come about.
Although there is tragedy throughout this drama, one must applaud the nobleness and courage that Oedipus demonstrated by accepting responsibility for his actions and accepting the same consequences as he had previously deemed needed to purge the land of the curse. As a result of the fall of the king, the audience and reader is left with a feeling of relieve (catharsis) that the king gets what he deserves for killing his father. Although there is pity for all the heartache he has to endure, there is a sense of poetic justice that just because the “hero” was of noble birth, he was not spared punishment.
References Adade-Yeboah, A. , Ahenkora, K. , & Amankwah, A. S. (2012). The tragic hero of the classical period. English Language and Literature Studies, 2(3), 10-17. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/1045567248? accountid=12085 Engle, Eric (2008). Aristotle, Law and Justice: The Tragic Hero, Page 1. Kennedy, X. J. , & Gioia, D. (2010). Critical Casebook – Sophocles. Literature- An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama & Writing (pp. 856-858). New York: Pearson.
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