The story Oedipus the King has been known for its tragedy. Sophocles gave us a hero in the character of Oedipus who shows a greatness and strength of a man in body and mind. He is the main character in the story who undertakes a fight with faith and destiny. Oedipus was born to the king and queen of Thebes, Laius and Jocasta. An awful and terrifying divine curse hung over with the baby boy. The royal couple learns from an oracle that king Laius is doomed to perish in the hands of his own son and that he will marry his own mother and bear children.
The King so ordered his wife, Jocasta to kill the infant. Hesitant to do so, the queen instead demanded a servant to commit the act of killing for her. The servant however in his conscience abandoned the baby in the fields, leaving the child’s fate to the gods. Oedipus was eventually taken in and raised in the court of the childless king of Corinth. Oedipus in his future proceedings learned the terrible prophecy from the Delphic oracle that is to become a father killer.
Shocked with what he has discovered, he decided not to go back to Corinth and took a path to Thebes instead, since he wanted to prevent his parents and himself from a disgrace, unknowing that the parents who have raised him weren’t his biological parents. On the way to Thebes, Oedipus killed his father – King Laius. The half of the prophecy was fulfilled because before he arrived to Thebes, he fulfilled the prophecy to become a father killer. When Oedipus finally reached the city, he rescued himself from the Sphinx Monster through solving the Sphinx’s challenging riddle.
Oedipus freed the inhabitants of the tormentor and became the new King of Thebes and eventually marries Jocasta. Oedipus thought that he successfully changed his destiny for good and proudly testifies that he achieved cheating his destiny. The truth though was quite different. In this story of Sophocles, the characters cared deeply about the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Although the truth that befalls to the destiny of Oedipus and his parents, Laius and Jocasta was terrifying, the writer still illustrated truth as an important virtue.
Sophocles also uses the self realizations and the characters’ transformation to underscore the themes of their tragedies. Oedipus specifically changes from a heroic, valiant and prideful king at the beginning of the play to a man in tyrant and in denial as he was beginning to solve the mystery of Laius death. Towards the end, Oedipus becomes a man humbled with the dejection and pain from learning the truth of reality as the overwhelming evidence forces him to admit his tragic fate.
Here, Sophocles made a point of comparison between the painful knowledge of knowing the truth and bliss of ignorance or naivete. In this story, Sophocles attributed that man can not fight the divine will of the gods. Oedipus’ fate is determined and so when he tried to fight it believing that he doesn’t deserve it, he experience human suffering. Prophecy is also the central theme of the tragedy. The story illustrates the possibility that error and disaster can happen to anyone who tries to fight the future occurrences that they are meant to be.
Humanity is relatively powerless before fate or the gods in accordance to Greek mythology. The play reminds the readers that free will has limits. Heroes, as being depicted by contemporary literature, are persons who are being idolized because of their actions and inner strengths that inspire many people. Those inner strengths they acquire are based most of the time on painful experiences that transform them to become better individuals. Moreover, a hero nowadays is not necessarily wealthy or politically active, so simple individuals can be heroes.
However, Oedipus The King is one of the classic heroes who is often associated with tragedy who enjoys superior status and prosperity but possesses some inner weaknesses or flaws which leads to his or her downfall. Most of the time, they are noble and brave who will later experience emotional or inner turmoil that will greatly influence their future actions. They impulsively make decisions out of logic and right rationality that often leads to destruction.
The definition of tragedy and the unfortunate fate that Sophocles incorporates to his hero Oedipus fulfill Aristotle’s definition and characterization of what a tragedy should be in his work Poetics. Basically the main concept of tragedy for Aristotle is that “a great person should experience a reversal of fortune”. The play Othello perfectly matches the Aristotle’s concept of tragedy. Oedipus character is an example of an Aristotelian tragic hero.