Sophocles' Oedipus Rex as Modern Tragedy Essay

1203 Words May 27th, 2011 5 Pages
Oedipus Rex and Tragedy

Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is, in short, the story of a man who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. It certainly sounds like a tragedy, doesn’t it? But the classification and definition of ‘tragedy’ are one of the many things widely disputed in the realm of literary studies. So, for the purposes here we’ll use Aristotle’s five criteria of a tragedy: a tragic hero of noble birth, a tragic flaw or mistake, a fall from grace, a moment of remorse, and catharsis. By any standard, Oedipus Rex clearly meets these five criteria. In The Poetics, Aristotle uses Oedipus to illustrate the ideal tragedy. Aristotle writes Oedipus is a model tragic hero because he is a man of high standing, but not
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“Ah God! It was true! All the prophecies! Now, O Light, may I look on you for the last time! I, Oedipus, Oedipus damned in his birth, in his marriage damned, Damned in the blood he shed with his own hand!” Further, we see here his moment of remorse, which results in blinding himself. With yet another stroke of irony, he has literally become blinded, though he has in a sense been blind all along. In the end, Oedipus comes to realize all the wrong he has done. This is the lesson that the play provides the reader with, otherwise known as the catharsis. T he lesson being, never lose your temper and to always think things out before making accusations. Another lesson that can be extracted from this play is to know one’s self. In this story, the character's egotism and self-centrism has caused him a different fate, drawing attention of the audiences on the issues that the human behaviors directly affect the human emotions as Oedipus blinded his eyes by himself after finding out the truth. Here the hunger for the truth overshadowed by his grandiosity as explained by Miller has made Oedipus to find out what he hadn't expected. He was just willing to help somebody but as it was overcame from his confidence and proud, the story is able to manipulate the audience's feeling and make feel sorry for the character even though it is already known to the audiences that Oedipus was wrong, as seen from his confident and proud actions.

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