Oedipus Rex

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” A man who is highly renowned and prosperous, but one who is not pre-eminently virtuous and just,
whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him not by vice and/or depravity, but by some error of
judgment or frailty.” – Aristotle
In Sophocles Oedipus The King, Oedipus, the main character who kills his father and marries
his mother, undoubtedly qualifies as a tragic hero. According to Aristotles definition, a tragic hero
must be “highly renowned and prosperous.” Oedipus was the King of Thebes and was highly
renowned for solving the riddle of the Sphinx and killing the monster. A victim of fate vilified by all,
he discovers his own downfall and rips out his eyes in self-punishment. This is castration for his
incestuous sin.

One of Oedipus key flaws lies in his will to know-and thereby, to control all reality. Oedipus
knowledge and determination help him intellectually with solving mysteries – like the riddle of the
Sphinx – but lead him ultimately to his tragic downfall. The petition of the chorus that opens Oedipus
the King attests to Oedipus responsible leadership. He has been a good king for Thebes, and when in
trouble is forthright to saving his city, but in his excitement and energy, Oedipus has no discretion.

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When, for example, Creon wisely hints that they should discuss the prophecy from the oracle in
private, Oedipus refuses, insisting that every action related to freeing corruption from the city must be

In his path to follow his will with an intellectual passion, Oedipus listens to no one and
is convinced he is doing nothing but good. His dynamic drive to solve the mystery and perform this
intellectual feat in front of all his people end in horror, as he finally discovers that the murderer is no
one but himself. By this total error of judgment and blindness Oedipus makes himself a tragic hero.

To the chorus, Oedipus explains his blinding as his mournful inability ever to look upon his loved ones
again, but the violence also represents his attack on that part of him that cannot stop seeking out and
finding what is hidden, despite the fateful consequences.


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