Q. Discuss king Oedipus is the tragic hero in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.
It is well known to us that, Oedipus Rex is considered as one of the best creations of Sophocles where the king Oedipus is the protagonist and he is also considered as the tragic hero.
According to the definition of Aristotle, “A tragic hero is a distinguished person, having a high status in life, who is neither entirely good nor superior nor entirely bad.
He is led by some tragic flow or hamartia. For his misfortune he will suffer a lot and receive a tragic death at the end of the play.” He also defines a tragic hero by four qualities: goodness, appropriateness, lifelike, and consistency.
Aristotle defines Oedipus as a tragic hero for his unfortunate arrangement of events. As a child, Oedipus was given a vision that he grow grow up marrying his mother and slaying his father. So, Jocasta and Laius try to obstruct the prophecy by killing Oedipus, but in the end, fate was the ultimate victor. According to Aristotle, Oedipus is an ideal example of a tragic hero for causing his own downfall, having fallen from his estate, and having an undeserved punishment.
Oedipus was born to superiority “his high estate gives him a place of dignity to fall from and perhaps makes his fall seem all the more a calamity in that it involves an entire nation or people.” Although Oedipus is a king and should be setting examples for society, he has major flaws such as pride and rage. Oedipus is easily angered and lashed out at Tiresias when he told him that he is his own murder.
Excellent quality of Oedipus as a king: Oedipus is a good king, a great-wisher of his people, a man of integrity, an honest and great administrator and an outstanding intellect. He is also a pious man who believes in oracles, respects the bonds of family and hates impurity.
The faults of Oedipus: Oedipus has his faults. He is hot-tempered, hasty in his judgment, excessively proud of his intelligence and arbitrary in his decisions.
His Pride: An outstanding feature of Oedipus’s character is an inherent feeling of pride in his own wisdom. Generally, self-confidence is a good quality, but when it takes the form of pride, hastiness and insolence, it becomes disgusting. He has already committed the crimes which make him a sinner in the eyes of the gods, in the eyes of other people and in his own eyes.
Oedipus had also acted similarly in Corinth when a drunkard had told him Polybus and Merope were not his real parents. His anger resulted in the death of Laius and his men.
Again, when he had known from the oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother, he left the kingdom because he loved his parents very much and he did not want to do it. Though, they were not his parents he tried his best to avoid the sin. It was completely in a state of ignorance that he killed his father and married his mother. His tragedy is a tragedy of error, not of any willful action. It is also because of characteristics that lead him to his downfall.
Oedipus is thus an authentic tragic hero in the Aristotelian sense because, among other things, his tragedy is as much due to his own initiatives in discovering the truth as to external circumstances.