Oedipus as a Tragic Hero: According to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy and his definition of the central character, Oedipus the hero of Sophocles is considered a classical model of the tragic hero. The tragic hero of a tragedy is essential element to arouse pity and fear of the audience to achieve the emotional purgation or catharathis. Therefore, this character must have some features or characteristics this state of purgation. In fact, Oedipus as a character has all the features of the tragic hero as demanded by Aristotle. The concept of tragic hero is very important in the construction of tragedy. It is the main cause of pity and fear. The tragic hero is a character between the two extremes; he is neither virtuous nor evil.
At the same time, this character is better than the ordinary men or audience, he has some good qualities. Moreover, as a tragic hero, he is moving from happiness to misery by his downfall at the end. In fact, this downfall is caused by an error or a flaw in his character not by a vice or depravity. Another feature in the tragic hero is that he has good reputation and he is a man of prosperity. It can be said that Oedipus is a tragic hero because he has all the previous mentioned characteristics and the whole play is a classical application of this concept. In fact, every feature in the definition of the tragic hero can be applied to the character of Oedipus. First, he is a good man. He made a virtuous service to Thebes and save the city by solving the riddle of Sphinx. In addition, he is good king and he can feel the suffering of his people because of the plague. He tells them “each one of you is enclosed to himself” he tells them that his suffering is greater than them. His intelligence and smartness saved Thebes one time before, his people trust him, and they are waiting for his solution of this situation of the plague.
They trust him to the extent that they compare him to God “god in you”, they believe that he may something form God about this disaster. He is great man that is why he sent Creon to the oracle of Apollo before the complaining of people. He is a king who knows what he should do for his people. Another good quality in Oedipus, that he is strong enough to punish himself by blindness instead of suicide. If he is a weak character, he will kill himself beside Jocasta at the end. He has the bravery to face the Theban people and to tell them that he is the killer of Laius. Therefore, it is clear that he has enough qualities to be a good character at least better than us. Beside the fact that he is a noble and good character, he has royal roots because he will be the son of Laius at the end. Therefore, he has good reputation because he is the son of a king. At the beginning, he tells Jocasta about his life history informing her that he is the son of Polybus and Morope the king and the queen of Cornith. He left his city because a fortune-teller told him that he will kill his father and marry his mother so he left the city. He left the city with the fear of this prophecy. Jocasta tells Oedipus about the prophecy told to Laius that he will have a son who will kill him and marry his mother. She tells him not to believe such prophecy because no man can see the future.
Moreover, she reveals to him that they killed their own son because of this prophecy. At the end, Oedipus turned to be the son of the previous king who killed his father and marry his mother. To conclude, he has royal roots wither he is the son of Laius or Polybus. Although Oedipus is a noble man of royal roots, but he has some errors in his character, he is not fully virtuous man because he is a tragic hero. It is clear that Oedipus is a good, brave, and intelligent king; he is a good character in general but he has some flaws or errors in his character. As a tragic hero, Oedipus’s errors bring his tragic downfall out at the end. First, the prominent flaw in his character is his stubbornness. He is stubborn to the extent that he does what he is thinking of whatever it costs. At the beginning, Tressias refuses to speak about the truth of Laius’s murder but he insists to know the killer to save Thebes. At the end Tressias tells him, that he is the murderer “the killer you are searching is yourself.” Then, when Jocasta advices him not to follow the truth because it will bring his agony “you are a man of agony”, he ignores her and keep on questioning the shepherd. He is stubborn and he wants to know his real identity from the shepherd. In fact, this stubbornness will bring his agony when he recognizes his real parents. Another flaw in his character is that he is a moody character and when he is in a bad temper, he can do anything. The result of his bad temper is the murder of king Laius who will turn to be his father. He was in a bad temper because of the prophecy. Moreover, he is a very quick character. He accuses Creon of plotting with Tressias against him to be the king. This because he is in a bad temper because of what Tressias said to him. Immediately before his accusation to Creon, he mocks Tressias the blind prophet of Apollo and insults him. Tressias replies saying, “you don’t see, alike we are” because Oedipus is blind also because he can not see his “sinful union.” He is highly stubborn and quick person, which will cost him a lot. The tragic flaws of Oedipus as being stubborn and quick are the main cause of his tragic end. His downfall is not out of depravity or vice but it is out of natural errors in his personality. He will pay for his own flaws. The tragic downfall of our hero is in his real identity as the son of Laius and Jocasta. He will be the killer of his father and the husband of his real mother.
As Tressias told him “no man will know worse suffering than you”, and then Jocasta called him the “man of agony.” He is does not know if he is the son of his daughters or the brother of them. After he discovers his real parents he blind himself in front of the dead body of his mother as a punishment. Moreover, the blind man will leave Thebes to get rid of the plague and the curse of the city. Neither Tressias nor the shepherd wanted to tell him the truth but his own stubbornness brought his end, they told him “I wish you had never the man you are.” His bad temper made him killed his father and the same error is the cause behind his accusation to Creon his loyal brother-in-law. So, Oedipus stubbornness and bad temper make him lose his eyes and leave Thebes at the end. By the end of the play and the downfall of the tragic hero, Sophocles achieved the purgation of the audience. Throughout the play, the hero is bringing out the pity and fear of the audience.
They fear the real identity of Oedipus and they do not want him to discover it. Moreover, the pity is associated with his downfall at the end. These emotional of pity and fear lead to the emotional purgation of the audience, which is the main aim of tragedy according to Aristotle. He is very appropriate to arouse such feelings because he has all the qualities of the tragic hero. In fact, Oedipus is doomed to kill his father, marry his mother and finally to be blind. It was his destiny or fate; he has nothing to do with this end or to prevent it. It was his fate which was manipulating him; drive him from Cornith to kill his father and then to Thebes to marry his mother. His destiny made him “his wife’s son, his mother husband.” By the hands of fate, he turned to be the most hated man in Thebes and “the man whose life is hell for others and for himself.”