How is Oedipus a Tragic Hero According to Aristotle?

What is a tragedy? A tragedy is an event that causes great suffering, destruction, and distress, sometimes a catastrophe. Aristotle’s characterization of a tragic hero is through his ability to preserve his virtue, despite his flaws. Oedipus is considered a tragic hero because he is not perfect but has many tragic flaws. Oedipus shows many flaws and braveness throughout this story. A tragic hero is the protagonist of a tragedy in dramas. This tragedy shows where a person suffers from pain but is also optimistic.

Isaiah 33:16-16 mention that “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hand, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure”.

In the story, Oedipus, Laius, King of Thebes, was warned by a prophecy that his son would kill him and marry his mother.

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Oedipus tells Jocosta of a prophecy of the same. Oedipus was set to be thrown to the mountains of Kithairon, by placing him on the mountainside to die. Oedipus was named “Oedipus” after his ankles was pinned together. Edmunds, Lowell, and Dunds (1983) say that Oedipus means “swell foot” meaning that he has swollen feet. Oedipus was named that because his parents used a skewer to pin his feet together. Thankfully, Oedipus was saved by a shepherd.

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The setting of this story is in a doomed city-state called Thebes. Shmoop states that Thebes is a palace where Oedipus’s father rules. The setting of the story does not change throughout the story. Unity of place means that a story states place in just one sitting. Oedipus is a King, so he feels as if he is already great. Oedipus felt down after he learned about his parent’s abandoning him. Once Oedipus learned of fate, he feels as if he is fated to carry out the killing of his father and the marriage of his mother. Oedipus vowed to never return to Corinth, after he ran away.

Oedipus is told several times to stop looking for the truth, but Oedipus keeps searching for the truth. Oedipus felt shamed and disowned after learning that he was left to die by his parent’s. The choices that his parents made was very shameful and arrogant. Oedipus felt couraged to go back to the city. The commitment for his people was looking up to him and to find out the truth about what happened. Shortly after leaving the city, Oedipus was sleepless and walking restlessly and encountered several people as he made his way back to the city. Along the way, Oedipus met many people that encouraged him and discouraged him. Tiresias is a blind seer. Oedipus calls out to the blind prophet for help. Blindness is used as a metaphor in this story. Oedipus is hearing stories from several people about his childhood about what happened when he was younger. He tries to piece all the details together, but he stills seems blind to all the details. Tiresias technically sees more than what Oedipus can see even though he is blind. Oedipus cannot believe what he is hearing and feels blind about what is going on. Tiresias accuses Oedipus of being King Laius’s murderer.

As Oedipus is digging to learn the truth about what happened, he is outraged by the accusation. Oedipus begs him to tell him who killed Laius. Tiresias was the son of the shepherd. In “Tiresias”, Tiresias became blind when he accidentally saw the goddess Athena bathing. Athena took his eyesight and gave him the ability to see the future. Tiresias saw into the future of Oedipus, he told him that he would be siblings to his own children and son to his own wife. Oedipus was so irate about what he learned that he blamed the murder on Tiresias. Kreon, is the brother of Iokaste, a prince of Thebes. Also, Oedipus’s brother-in-law. Kreon became the Prince of Thebes, after the death of Laius. Kreon wanted to end the plague and send Oedipus out to find the murderer of Lauis. Oedipus seems to worry about the story that Kreon is telling him. Oedipus believes that Kreon is plotting against him.

As a matter of fact, Oedipus seems to think that Kreon and Tiresias are plotting against him. Oedipus seems betrayed and do not trust them any longer. The first messenger arrives and informs Oedipus that King Polybus is dead. Oedipus believes that Polybus is his father. The messenger then proceeds to tell him that his father is dead and that they would like for him to be King of the Palace. Certainly, he is happy, thinking that he was left to manage the Palace, only to shortly find out that Polybos is not his father, he is outraged. He learns of the abandonment and sets out to learn the truth. John 8:21-32, to the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.

Jocasta is Oedipus’s wife and mother, and Kreon’s sister. She is the Queen of Thebes. Jocasta and her husband seem to be living a great life until they learn of the prophecy that their son would murder him and marry his own wife. This is when they decided to abandon him and thought that he would be better off dead. Jocasta soon thought that her husband was killed by thieves. As Oedipus gets older and ventures out in the palace, Jocasta learns that Oedipus is still alive. Jocasta really was feeling down when she started remembering the prophecy that made her abandon her son. She starts to remember all the things that she did to him. She tries to comfort him to let him know that the matter is cushioned and not to seek the answers. At this point, Oedipus is determined to find the truth and seeks out. As the details of Oedipus abandonment wonders through her head and that she committed incest, Jocasta hangs herself. This situation really bothered Oedipus when he learns of the tragic death of Jocasta.

Jocasta is the only person that felt pity for him. She knew the answers that Oedipus needed, but did not want him to find out. Jocasta told many lies to Oedipus. Oedipus is certainly a tragic hero. His determination and faith to search and find the truth about his family. Oedipus was a victim of fate. Oedipus had the strength to find out the truth under the many circumstances that he is being put through. Compton-Engle (2013) state that Oedipus is a tragic hero due to his lack of self-knowledge. When he hears the story of how King Laius, was brutally murdered, Oedipus went searching for answers. He went searching for the guilty person. He seemed blind to all the details, and did not know that he was a suspect, technically looking for himself. He knew that he had murdered someone, but not his father. Oedipus did not want to stop searching until learned the truth.

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How is Oedipus a Tragic Hero According to Aristotle?. (2020, Sep 06). Retrieved from

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