How Sophocles' Oedipus Exemplifies Or Refutes Aristotle's Definition Of A Tragic Hero

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How Sophocles' Oedipus exemplifies or refutes Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero


The purpose of this study is to expand the boundaries of our knowledge by exploring some relevant facts relating to Greek theater and the concept of tragic hero by the two great authors; Aristotle and Sophocles. When speaking of the Greek Theatre, we must necessarily distinguish between tragic dramas and comic plays. This division will speak later purpose of the study of Greek tragedy was Aristotle. At the moment, before going deep into the comment of a classic of its kind as Oedipus Rex, it would be a little stand in the technical part of a tragedy to see the elements that compose it. The mechanical stage of a classical tragedy is quite complex: for example, the story line is not continuously exposed, but is interrupted by choral performances.

Discussion & Analysis

Sophocles' Oedipus exemplifies Aristotle defination of a tragic hero

In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the protagonist Oedipus does exemplify Aristotle's definition of the tragic hero. The tragic hero, according to Aristotle, is a hero who is held high on a pedestal, seems to be a person of great virtue, who through no apparent fault of his own, falls from his high position to the lowest depths possible. By falling, the hero becomes the subject of pity to both the other characters in the play as well as the audience (Whitman, pp. 23-27).

The most consistent argument in Aristotle's Poetics is that tragedy is action foremost, and the tragic hero an agent of physical events. A common misapprehension of the character of Aristotle's tragic hero centers on the misreading of the word hamartia as "tragic flaw." In this ahistorical model, Oedipus is brought down by a flaw, often thought to be an excess of pride, or hubris. Hamartia is a difficult word to translate, but linguistic research reveals little doubt that it does not refer to an intrinsic character flaw. The word was an ancient Greek archery term, literally meaning "to miss the mark." Hamartia concerns the hero's actions, not his character. More important, the notion of a tragic flaw flatly contradicts ancient concepts of justice, confusing intent with result. To claim that Oedipus is characteristically flawed is to claim that he is brought down by a deep, internal unfitness for rule. In this respect, Oedipus errs by believing he is greater than the gods, that he can transcend the destiny decreed by Apollo's own oracle. Hubris is his flaw; his actions are the result of his excessive pride (Rocco, pp. 5-9).

To accept this model, though, one must overlook, or explain away as rhetorical or political convenience, the fact that Oedipus repeatedly proclaims the supremacy of the gods and the importance of pledging them what they are due: "Our health (with the gods' help) shall be made certain." While this is a compelling lesson in morality, it is an ahistoric reversal of the moral standards of ancient civilization. A few brief reviews of ancient Greek myths reveal a world where actions and their ...
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