Sophocles and Aristotle Research Paper

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer


Poetry is an imitation employed by writers to express views ad opinions in society. In many fictional poems, characters are portrayed with either better or worse behaviors as compared to behaviors of real characters. Other writers try as much as possible to match the objects of poetic imitation with real life events.

In his works, Aristotle differentiates between humor and tragedy. He notes that tragedy entails presenting objects of poetic imitation in a better way than they would appear in real life. In other words, tragedy is the presentation of characters in an idealized form. Therefore, a tragic poet tries to present better life as compared to real life. This would mean that tragic poetry criticizes the existing form of life[1]. The characters in a tragic poem have better qualities as compared to the qualities of characters in real life.

However, idealized characters are not usually ethical as compared to real characters. Idealization means that characters live a complete and intense life as compared to real characters. Real characters might be leading a miserable life. In a tragic hero, the characters are awesome because they are given good qualities. In real life, the qualities of a tragic hero are controversial. The works of Sophocles on Oedipus the King exemplifies the works of Aristotle in a number of ways.


Aristotle claims that a tragic hero is somebody with a moderate character. A tragic hero is an individual who possesses some good qualities with a mix of negative qualities. Such an individual is referred to as an ideal tragic hero. In fact, Aristotle claims that the only difference between an ideal tragic hero and a normal person is the moral altitude. The feelings of an ideal tragic hero are deeper and his or her actions are intense[2].

Moreover, an ideal tragic hero has some intellectual power as compared to a normal person. In other words, such an individual has the interest of people at heart. When a tragic hero demands for assistance from members of the public, each person is willing to help because of his or her good actions.

A tragic hero is a person admired by each member of society. Aristotle observes that a tragic hero is an individual who is committed to bringing change in society. This means that an ideal hero is a transitional leader whose role is to transform society[3].

A tragic hero is a leader who adopts some qualities that enables him or her to transform society. This means that the leader must change his or her character as soon as he or she quits power. Oedipus is presented as someone who has the interests of people at heart. He helps members of society when they face several problems. For instance, he lowers taxes when the agricultural returns are very low.

The works of Sophocles exemplifies Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero in a number of ways. This paper aims at bringing out the similarities between the two. For instance, the two are similar in terms of expressing the traits of characters. In chapter fifteen, Aristotle classifies the qualities of a tragic hero just in the same way Sophocles classifies the qualities of Oedipus. The two sets of qualities are similar.

Qualities of a Tragic Character

Tragic heroes are always perceived to be good people in society. Aristotle observes that a tragic hero should be somebody with an extraordinary character. An individual is considered a good person if he or she is sympathetic. The leader should be interested in solving the various problems that the majority is facing in society.

Aristotle suggests that leaders should possess this characteristic. This implies that they should be in a position to empathize with the population during calamities. In the Oedipus the King, Sophocles notes that the King is responsive since he resolves all problems affecting citizens.

Tragic emotions help a tragic hero to convey tragic pleasure. This means that a tragic hero should do everything possible to achieve greatness for the people. Oedipus is presented as a radical leader because he uses all available resources to develop cities[4]. He uses the little resources to strengthen the security of the city. Therefore, Oedipus is a good leader who can be compared to a tragic hero.

Another important feature of a tragic hero is appropriateness. Aristotle notes that a tragic hero should perform his or her roles as required by society. In society, each individual is charged with a certain responsibility. If each person plays his or her part honestly, the society would achieve greatness. The behavior of a tragic hero is influenced by factors such as age, gender, occupation, class, and profession. For instance, a woman in society must learn to behave as a real woman by doing those things that the society approves.

If the rich individuals wish to obtain the status of a tragic hero, they must be willing to share their possessions with the poor. They must treat the poor with dignity. Oedipus does not discriminate members of the public based on their class[5]. He does not allow his social class to interfere with his ambition. His main ambition is to raise the standards of living of the poor.

Tragic heroes tend to be similar in their character. Many tragic heroes have similar features irrespective of time, age, place, and ethnicity. Tragic heroes would always take extraordinary measures, may prove dangerous to their own survival. For instance, Oedipus does not care about the status of his government when he orders local authorities to reduce taxes.

The priest in the play observes that Oedipus takes a courageous move, which would be criticized by the ruling class. The interest of the owners of the means of production is to control every aspect of life in society. Oedipus does not allow his leadership to be compromised by the ruling class.

In many kingdoms, the owners of the means of production tend to buy justice because they own governmental machinery. Oedipus sacrifices his position for the sake of the poor. His major objective is to achieve greatness. In the play, Aristotle observes that the tragic heroes are to be compared to great individuals such as Socrates who chose death to restore justice in society. Socrates believed that democracy was the worst form of governance. Indeed, democracy was the tyranny of the multitude.

For an individual to achieve the qualities of a tragic hero, his or her actions must be consistent. A good leader should always be development oriented. When Oedipus realizes that people are gathered in his compound, he wonders why people they are there instead of being in their places of work[6]. This means that the King is always positive about his people. He does not know that people are gathered in the compound to demand basic needs.

Upon realization that people are suffering, he embarks on a serious mission that would improve their living standards. Aristotle notes that it is tragic for a prominent leader to perform dismally in a great nation. If the leadership of a prominent person falls, people would not fear but instead they would be shocked. If the leadership of a weak person flourishes, members of the public would not be jubilant but instead they would mourn because the leader may impose irrelevant taxes. Therefore, the tragic hero should not be extremely virtuous.

Moreover, he or she should not be too weak. The leader should possess the features of both a strong and a weak leader. However, the most important aspect is striking the balance between the two. For Oedipus, his actions are consistent because he is always willing to help. However, he is portrayed as a moderate leader[7].


The qualities of a tragic hero are similar to the qualities exhibited by Oedipus. This means that the works of Sophocles exemplifies the works of Aristotle. According to Aristotle, the tragic hero should be consistent, good, and always be willing to do things appropriately. Tragic heroes should not be virtuous.

However, they should not be weak. These are the qualities of Oedipus since he is not a strong King. We are told that the priest had to inform him that people are dying of hunger before he could act. Literary work is usually used to criticize the behaviors of leaders in society. The two stories are successful in criticizing the actions of leaders in the ancient Greek society.


Connor, Jack. The English Novel in History. London: Routledge, 1996.

Hall, Edith, and Macintosh Faith. Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Hall, Edith. The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey. London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2008

Mill, Stuart. A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (Classic Reprint). New York: Forgotten Books, 2011. Print.

Moore, George. Ethics. London: Williams and Norgate, 1912.

Stokes, Eric. The English Utilitarian and India. London: Clarendon Press, 1963. Print.

Xian, Kennedy, and Dana Gioia. Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing . New York: Longman, 2010.


  1. Kennedy Xian and Dana Gioia, Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing (New York: Longman, 2010), 14.
  2. Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (New York: Forgotten Books, 2011), 43.
  3. Edith Hall and Macintosh Faith, Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 58.
  4. George Moore, Ethics (London: Williams and Norgate, 1912), 112
  5. Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarian, and India (London: Clarendon Press, 1963), 18.
  6. Jack Connor, The English Novel in History (London: Routledge, 1996), 98.
  7. Edith Hall, The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey (London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2008), 78.
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