Oedipus A Tragic Hero


Oedipus:A Tragic Hero


  1. Greek tragedy attracted a lot of audience in the ancient civilizations. Aristotle attempted to advice authors in the Greek society on the basic characteristics of a tragic hero. This paper demonstrates how Oedipus fits the description of a tragic hero.

  2. Error in judgment resulting in his downfall is the most important characteristics of a tragic hero.

  3. Other characteristics include ability to evoke fear and pity from the audience, and nobility and eminence greatness.

  4. Oedipus the King was an insightful and courageous leader. He killed his father unknowingly and married his mother. When he realized his mistakes, he blinded himself and went into exile. This resulted into his downfall.

  5. He had all the characteristics of a tragic hero. He was able to evoke both pity and fear from the audience due to the misfortunes he faced, especially when he killed his father and blinded himself later. His errors in judgment led to his misfortunes and downfall.

  6. He had nobility and eminence greatness, although he was not portrayed as superhuman. His personality and intelligence, especially when he solves the riddle of Sphinx, and the fact that he was the son of a king, earns him respect

  7. Therefore, Oedipus the King is a typical example of a tragic hero described by Aristotle.

Oedipus:A Tragic Hero

TheGreek tragedy is one of the most important literary works from theancient world. In the same way tragic stories attracts a big audiencein the modern society they were very famous in the ancientsocieties. Consequently, Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle,contributed in the analysis of these fictional works. Aristotlesought to advise the playwright and authors in the Greek civilizationon the characteristics of the tragic heroes (Felski, 2008). Hisanalysis of the Greek tragedy was motivated by the fact that manypeople were interested in storylines in which actors suffered someform of misfortunes in their lives. He argued that during thedevelopment of a tragic hero story plot, the audiences areemotionally attached to the protagonist, which results in pity andfear. Oedipus, the King by Sophocles, fits the descriptions of atragic hero. His nobility, errors in judgment and eventually themisfortunes that resulted in his downfall concur with Aristotleaccounts (Felski, 2008). This paper illustrates how Oedipusexemplifies the definition of a tragic hero.


Althoughseveral characteristics define a tragic hero, an error in judgmentresulting in an inevitable destruction is one of the most important.According to Aristotle, a character is considered a tragic hero if hecontributes to his downfalls. The tragic hero is the main protagonistin the literary work or story. He is a noble character and enjoysfame and greatness in the society. Consequently, he occupied animportant position of nobility, which enable him to stand above otheractors in the tale (Sarah &amp Tredell, 2014). Despite the eminencegreatness, the he does not have a perfect personality. Theimperfection is an important characteristic that defines the tragichero. This makes the tragic hero human and enables him to identifywith other characters in the play. If he were perfect, it would beimpossible to experience catharsis because he will be elevated to asuperhuman nature (Sarah &amp Tredell, 2014).

Theclimax of the tragic tale is the downfall of the protagonist. Thisforms an essential characteristic of Aristotle’s tragic hero.Partly, the protagonist has a role in his destruction. Through freechoice, he makes a mistake that defines his destiny. The downfall isnot an accident but results from personal faults. Due to poorjudgment, he makes an error that results in the tragedy.Additionally, he may possess a personality problem associated withthe lack of perfectionist, which contributes to the error. Thetragedy results in a downfall. Nonetheless, the misfortunes faced bythe hero are not deserved. When compared to his mistakes or faults,the punishment is very harsh although it does not result in totalloss. In most cases, the audience becomes more aware of thecharacters and personality of the protagonist. Also, the hero becomesmore aware of himself as a result of the tragedy (Sarah &ampTredell, 2014).

Aristotlesuggested that the tragic hero character engages the audience in thedevelopment of the plot. This is because the viewers or readers candevelop an attachment to the character. Additionally, theprotagonists should be able to create a sense of fear as well as pityor sympathy among the audience. The tragedy should not result incomplete loss of prosperity because it will have negative impacts onhis role as the main character. The pity will emanate from the factthat the person is subjected to an undeserving tragedy which resultsin punishment. On the other hand, the fear is associated with thefact that the hero is portrayed in the story as human. Thus, themisfortunes that he encounters as a result of error in judgment bringabout the sense of fear among the audience. At the beginning of thestory, a protagonist is an average person in person with acceptablebehaviors. However, he suffers and dies as a result of irreversiblejudgment errors (Simons &amp Merrill, 2012).

Oedipusas a tragic hero

Oedipusexemplifies the tragic hero described by Aristotle. He was aninsightful and excellent leader who could respond to the needs of hissubjects. For example, when the people were faced with a plague, hewas able to anticipate it and save them. He is also a confident andcourageous warrior who was able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. However, as the plot of the play developed his character becamedangerous. His other side is portrayed when he killed his father anda band of travelers. Oedipus life takes a turn when his real identityis revealed to him. He realized that he was an adopted child andmarried his mother after killing his father. This marked thebeginning a misfortunes that led to his suffering and death. Heblinded himself as a form a punishment and had his daughter as aguide as he wondered to his death (Sophocles, 2012).

Thecharacteristics of a tragic hero described by Aristotle are evidentin Oedipus story. Consequently, it is considered to be the typicalexample of a tragic hero story. In the story, Sophocles was able toincorporate the most important aspects proposed by Aristotle, theability to evoke both pity and fear from the audience (Sarah &ampTredell, 2014). There is no doubt the audience of the play willdevelop sympathy for the challenges and misfortunes faced by Oedipus.The main source of pity is the slaying of his father. While theaudiences are aware that Oedipus is killing his father, he is notaware. Additionally, he marries his mother without knowing. Theintense feeling of guilt results in his misfortunes. He blindshimself and goes into exile. The audience will be sympathetic withOedipus because he behaved like a righteous and honorable man tryingto protect and defend his parents. He was unaware that he was anadopted child. Although morality motivated him, he ended up doing thewrong thing unknowingly. This illustrated his struggle with hisdestiny. Although Oedipus was a great and courageous leader, he wasunable to overcome the power of his fate (Sophocles, 2012).

Inaddition to evoking sympathy, the predicaments that faced Oedipus theKing towards the end of the story concur with Aristotle descriptionof a tragic hero. It is important to note that Oedipus is consideredto be a tragic hero because of how he died rather than the mere factthat he died. All human will eventually pass on, but Aristotleillustrated the circumstance under which a tragic hero dies (Simons &ampMerrill, 2012). Oedipus death was a tragedy. Several misfortuneshappened before his death. These disasters were mainly as a result ofhis errors in judgment. First, he realized he was living a lie. Hehad made the wrong decision by killing his father and marrying hismother. Secondly, since he could not redeem himself from the mistakesor be forgiven, he made himself venerable by blinding himself(Sophocles, 2012). These errors lead to his downfall. It can beinterpreted that Oedipus downfall was as a result of human weakness,such that he was unable to understand his identity. Despite hisability to preempt challenges facing the society, he was unable toanticipate his tragedy and therefore could not determine his destiny.Some of the audience may interpret that Oedipus was not responsiblefor his misfortunes because some decision were based on wronginformation. However, this was a critical aspect in the developmentof the plot. His tragedy resulted from his error of judgment afterknowing his real identity. This is one of the reasons why theaudiences are likely to pity and sympathize with him (Sarah &ampTredell, 2014).

Aristotleasserted that a tragic hero should have nobility and eminencegreatness. However, this does not make him a superhuman or a perfectindividual. Oedipus the King demonstrated these characteristics of atragic hero. At the beginning of the play, Oedipus is very successfulbecause he lives a virtues life. His greatness also contributes tohis characteristics as a tragic hero. The author portrays him as anindividual with distinct abilities. His personality and intelligence,especially when he solves the riddle of Sphinx, earns him respect.The audience wills definitely identify him as the king. His nobilitywas also based on the fact that he was the son of King of Thebes.Additionally, he was made to believe that his father was the king ofCorinth. In both senses, he was a noble. Although he was not aware ofhis identity, Oedipus is portrayed as a virtuous character at thebeginning of the tale (Sophocles, 2012). According to Aristotle, thedignified life of a tragic hero, as well as flaws, is essential inbalancing his human form (Sarah &amp Tredell, 2014). Several acts ofdecency can be identified in Oedipus social life. For example, heworked hard to be a good son to his parent, although they were notreal but surrogate. He used all his powers to protect them.Additionally, after he realized that he had made a huge mistake inlife, he did not blame other people. He punished himself for hiswrong doings. He accepted his immoral acts and the shame associatedwith them (Ziaul &amp Fahmida, 2013).


Aristotledescribed a tragic hero as a dignified person who works hard to dothe right thing but contributes to his downfall by making judgmenterror. Throughout his life, the tragic hero can evoke both pity andfear among the audience. The archetype of the tragic herodemonstrates the complex relationship between an individual’sdestiny, nature of life and the social environment. The mythicalGreek hero, Oedipus the King is an example of a tragic hero proposedby Aristotle. He was a noble who used his all his mental andphysical powers to do what he thought were right. However, he endedup killing his parents, which evoke both fear and sympathy among theaudience. Eventually, his errors in judgment resulted in misfortunesand consequently his death. Although the flaws did not discredit him,they caused adversity.


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Kennedy,X. &amp Gioia, D. (2015). Literature:An introduction to fiction, poetry, drama, and writing.Longman.

Sarah,D. &amp Tredell, N. (2014). Tragedy.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Simons,J. &amp Merrill, R. (2012). Peckinpah`stragic westerns: a critical study.Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Sophocles.(2012). Oedipusthe King in Plain and Simple English: BookCaps Study Guide. BookCapsStudy Guides, ISBN 1621072258.

ZiaulH. &amp Fahmida K. (2013). &quotThe Concept of Blindness inSophocles` King Oedipus and Arthur Miller`s Death of a Salesman&quot,InternationalJournal of Applied Linguistics &amp English Literature,2(3) p. 118.