Maura Katona Mrs. Burke Contemp. Themes in Lit. 6 October 2009 Oedipus as a Tragic Hero There are many different characteristics that make a tragic hero worthy of popularity. All great heros throughout literature and history have been of noble birth, been fated by the gods to disaster, captured sympathy from the audience, and possessed a tragic flaw. Oedipus the King had all of these characteristics throughout his history and family. Oedipus posses qualities that are both empowering and a downfall. Since prophecies play a huge role in the story of Oedipus the King, we see the prophecies surfacing various times throughout the play.
As Tiresias prophesies, “I say without knowing it you are living in shameful intimacy with your nearest and dearest. You do not see the evil in which you live. [… ] You have mocked at my blindness, but you, who have eyes, cannot see the living, nor with whom you share your house. [… ] Without knowing it, you are the enemy of your own flesh and blood, the dead below and living here above.
” (Oedipus pg. 25) Tiresias tells Oedipus of the history he will soon learn is all true and accurate. Oedipus refuses to believe the prophecy. He does not know he was born of noble birth to Jocasta and Laius.
From birth, Oedipus had been fated by the gods to suffer. A prophecy was sent to Laius saying his son would kill him and so Laius attempted to abandon Oedipus for good. As Jocasta explained, “a prophecy came to Laius once- I wont say from Apollo himself, but from his priests. It said that Laius was fated to die by the hand of his son, a son to be born to him and to me. Well, Laius, so the story goes, was killed by foreign robbers at a place where three highways meet. ” (Oedipus pg. 41) As his wife explains this prophecy, Oedipus begins to realize that he has a possible tie into the situation and starts to see proof of the prophecy oming true. Oedipus’ tragic flaw was his blindness and ignorance to the occurrences around him, and also his excessive pride and hubris. He refused to believe the prophecies at first, and felt that he could do no wrong since he was such a great and powerful king. Since he had just rescued the city of Thebes from the curse of the Sphinx, Oedipus was confidant and assured of his position in the world. As we see in the beginning of the novel, when Oedipus says, “Here I am, myself, world famous Oedipus” (Oedipus pg. 6), we see that he was full of pride and assurance that everyone knew who he was.
Toward the end of the play, Oedipus’ fate had been revealed and the prophecies proven true. The audience is captured with pity for the sad king and his downfall. We see the effects on his family and children since his daughters can no longer marry as a result of incest within their household. It is had to have feelings other than sympathy for a man who unintentionally killed his own father, married his mother, and was the subject of an unfortunate life and prophecy. Oedipus, though named a Tragic Hero, inevitably become the subject of catastrophe in the play.
Oedipus always seemed to attempt to do the right thing such as discover the murderer of Laius. His confidence and pride however, led his search in a different direction. Once the prophecies are supported, Oedipus has a moment of anagnorisis where he seems less occupied by hubris and more occupied by feelings closer to that of a regular man. Although his accomplishments may not outweigh his downfalls, every person can argue that all true heros possess a flaw that may or may not be a result of fate rather than free will.
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