The Greek Dramatic Tragedy
The written task is based on the text Oedipus Rex or Oedipus the King by Sophocles. The critical essay aims to explore how the text, a classical Greek tragedy conforms to the particular genre of a tragedy. Indeed, Oedipus has been considered the perfect tragedy that Aristotle in his poetics framed the definition of tragedy based on the text. Sophocles was a famous and successful Athenian writer of tragedies in his time. Of his 120 plays, only 7 survived. Oedipus the King, also known as Oedipus Rex or Oedipus Tyrannus was written around 420 BC is not only considered to be one of his best plays but also have portrayed the pure form of Greek tragic drama. It is grim and compelling conflict between free will and fate. To explore how the text Oedipus adheres to the genre of tragedy, we must explore the definition and components of tragedy as explained by Aristotle. The term “tragedy” originated from the Greek word meaning “Goat song”. It is in the first place denoted the ritual sacrifice accompanied by a choral song. Out of this ritual developed Greek dramatic tragedy.
In his poetics, Aristotle defined tragedy as: The imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself, in language with pleasurable accessories, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis.Oedipus Tyrannusabides by this definition of tragedy with the action that was serious throughout the play and the final scene, the climax of the play arousing immense pity for Oedipus from the audience because of the sole reason that he did not realize he committed such a hideous crime and above all did not have any say in what happened to him. We pity him because he is a good man, a good king, and a good husband and father.
Subsequently Aristotle also spoke about the tragic hero who, as he described, remains the intermediate personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous and just, whose misfortune however is brought upon him by some error of judgement. This explanation offered by Aristotle for a tragic hero is very apt for Oedipus, classifying him as a tragic hero. Oedipus is a caring king and is also very compassionate. He calls the people of Thebes “my children”. He is also a powerful, confident and strong. He calls himself “here I am you all know me, – the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus”. He is also a trustworthy king as he tells the people of his kingdom ‘You can trust me. I am ready to help’. He is the king that the Thebes look up to.’we do rate you first of men’, ‘you lifted up our lives’ .
However he is a human too, and is exposed to flaws and is imperfect. He is an overconfident person who tends to judge too quickly. He becomes enraged when Tiresias refuses to share the truth and calls him ‘scum of the earth’. He irrationally accuses not only Tiresias but also Creon, his brother in law. He even challenges the gods and hence displays hubris, daring to compare himself to the Gods ‘You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayers’. He is also reluctant to accept the prophecy of the oracle of Apollo. The tragedy of Oedipus was eventually due to his own temper, his impulsive behaviour, his excessive pride and dare to challenge the gods. His anger makes him too ardent to know the truth from Tiresias. The truth is left uncovered and this is primarily because of his pride. He however is desperate to know the truth and does not let him go without telling him the truth. He also makes the mistake of leaving his adopted parents after knowing about the prophecy – having just been told that he will kill his father and marry his mother, and uncertain who his real parents are, Oedipus impulsively kills an older man, and marries an older woman. Oedipus does not deserve his tragic misfortune as he naively took actions by mistake, unaware of the truth. His crime was not out of wickedness; it was due to his ignorance about his self-identity. He did not know that King Laius was his father and Jocasta was his mother. When Tiresias talks to Oedipus about his family history, he doubts who his father is: ‘Parents-who? Wait…who is my father?’ Oedipus fulfills the definition of the tragic hero. His lively and complex character emotionally bonds the audience; his tragic flaw forces the audience to fear for him, without losing any respect; and his horrific punishment elicits a great sense of pity from the audience. Though Sophocles crafted Oedipus long before Aristotle developed his ideas, Oedipus fits Aristotle’s definition with startling accuracy. He is the tragic hero par excellence and richly deserves the title as ‘the ideal tragic hero.’
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The written task is based on the text Oedipus Rex or Oedipus the King by Sophocles. The critical essay aims to explore how the text, a classical Greek tragedy conforms […]