Oedipus had no discretion, leading to many tragic consequences. In the ancient world, Oedipus encounters problems in each of his journeys. His inability to seek advice is a particular point in which he has many conflicts down the line.
For over three hundred years, Oedipus the King has been among the most studied and popular plays in Greece. The story of his journey from prince to king, from success to helplessness, is a complex one. In this Greek tragedy, Oedipus has been brought to the forefront many times through time due to its dramatic content and deep meaning. Readers have been inspired by his journey throughout time and generations due to the story’s timely relevancy.
When you take a look at Oedipus, you see that the protagonist meets all of those things Aristotle believed would make for a hero. In addition to those qualifications, according to Aristotle, the audience needs three key aspects in order to consider someone the tragic hero: an emotional connection with the protagonist; tension as they watch what might happen; and empathy when nothing seems to go right. “Oedipus is like most tragic characters in one way – he’s a superlative role,” states Peter Struck (2009).
It is in a conflict over the issue of identity. He seeks help from those around him but needs to reassess who he is in order to break away from his fate. His source of angst and sadness is existential in nature, stemming from how he cannot find his place or control his identity. This inability to find his place prevents members of the audience from truly connecting with Oedipus and keeps them tethered by the idea that they are unable to help him because they do not know what exactly it is that he’s going through.
In order to create a tragic character, Aristotle suggests that the protagonist must elicit a response to emotions and be important enough to cause the audience to fear their downfall. For example, Oedipus is a tragic character because of his moral weakness.
The fatal consequences are brought about by the protagonist’s pride, but always at the hand of fate. The audience feels greatly invested in the hero character while still feeling a sense of social responsibility and having a certain respect for them.
Tragic heroes are often people who made big mistakes in judgment and have resulted in unfortunate consequences. He’s also not corrupt or immoral, but someone who is celebrated and well-regarded; for example, Oedipus. Oedipus used his sense of strength to lead his people and make wise decisions. He finally realized who he was, unlike when he wasn’t listening to advice and wasn’t acting wisely.
Without Oedipus, who knew what life would be like in Thebes? His courageous endeavors helped save the people of the city by placing them under his leadership, and that led to a series of unfortunate events. Following the uprise of these events, his good fortune turned about and caused his mental torture. Tragedies often have an element of all three of these key elements: natural talent that deserves prosperity; a major change in fortune; and then the end with a sad ending.
The audience is meant to feel both pity and punishment, all of these emotions are what make us care about the character. He also makes us feel closure since Oedipus will be suffering forever. In particular, Sophocles accompanies the audience’s compassion with a sense of satisfaction.
Could we find someone like the Bible’s Joseph, who is also both God-ordained and possessed of special wisdom? Pharaoh is saying that Joseph is the wisest and most discerning person because God has appeared to him all this. How might history change if Oedipus were reimagined as a woman rather than a man? Oedipus would have been married to his father, became a ruler and Queen of her own land, lost her child, and then was exiled from there.
Oedipus is a tragic character who progresses in bonding with the audience, in some ways seeing the same story arc we see in our own lives. When the audience bonds with him and takes him seriously, it leads to heartfelt fear and loss for both Oedipus and the audience. To be the tragic hero in a story, one must show enough empathy or pity to elicit it from the audience. Oedipus’s character is burdened with this throughout most of the play and ultimately lifts both himself and his country past their limits.
Aristotle builds upon the tragedy of Oedipus to create a character who is in utmost pain due to feeling guilt and shame, yet great pity on account of himself. Perhaps the most important aspect of this passage is in Aristotle’s phrase ‘perpetual misery’.
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