Essay Sympathy for Oedipus in the Oedipus Tyrannus

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Sympathy for Oedipus in the Oedipus Tyrannus

The aim of tragedy is to evoke fear and pity, according to Aristotle, who cited the Oedipus Tyrannus as the definitive tragic play. Thus pity must be produced from the play at some point. However, this does not necessarily mean that Oedipus must be pitied. We feel great sympathy ('pathos') for Jocasta's suicide and the fate of Oedipus' daughters. Oedipus could evoke fear in us, not pity. He is a King of an accursed city willing to use desperate methods, even torture to extract truth from the Shepherd. His scorning of Jocasta just before her death creates little pity for him, as does his rebuke of the old, blind Tiresias. But with this considered, we must not forget the suffering he
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The fact that it is separate from what we see means that it is far easier to sympathise. The fate which he has unwittingly followed, and the incest he has committed would not have been eventually discovered by him or the city if it wasn't for his desire to find out his true lineage and know who he really is. But it was only his love for his city ("my spirit grieves for the city" 75) that led him to try and find the killer of his father, in accordance with the words of the Oracle. It is a cruel fate ("you were born for pain" 1305) that causes someone's downfall due to their compassion and wish to lift a plague which is rampaging through the city and killing hundreds ("let me grant your prayers" 245). This all definitely evokes pity in us. However we must also consider what kind of a man this has happened to. Has he evoked fear just as much as this pity?

In considering Oedipus' failings and why it is hard to feel pity for him, let us begin with the title issues. There are instances unquestionably when he is unyielding about issues. He is prone to getting an idea into his head and ignoring all others. When Oedipus thinks that Creon is the killer of Laius, Oedipus abandons all rational thought and does not listen to the defence of Creon or his 'isegoria' ("I want you dead" 698). These unjust accusations and unwillingness to listen to Creon's side of the story ("you've a wicked way with words" 610) lead to pity for Oedipus' brother-in-law/uncle as

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