Chapters 42 and 43 of the Kennedy and Gioia textbook (Chapters 44 and 45 in the eText) provide helpful pointers for writing about plays and for developing research papers. Be sure to review both chapters thoroughly before you begin doing any further work for this assignment.
Choose 1 of the prompts below to address in your paper:
- Write an essay explaining how Sophocles’ Oedipus exemplifies or refutes Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Review Chapter 34 in your textbook (Chapter 36 in the eText) for the background and overview of Aristotle’s concept of tragedy/the tragic hero and drama. This chapter also contains critical information on Sophocles and the play Oedipus. You may use any of the critical material as a secondary source, but remember to cite it correctly. A video performance and an animated lesson on the play Oedipus are available in MyLiteratureLab Multimedia for you to watch.
- Discuss William Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice as a tragedy. As defined by Aristotle, is it correct to label Othello a “tragic hero” and to classify the play as an Aristotelian tragedy? Review Chapter 35 of your textbook (Chapter 37 in the eText) for the background and overview of Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice, and drama. This chapter also contains critical information on Shakespeare and the play Othello, the Moor of Venice. You may use any of these critical materials as a secondary source, but remember to cite it correctly. Also, read the overview of Aristotle’s concept of tragedy/the tragic hero on pages 904–907 (pages 857–859 in the eText) as well as the sample Student Essay on Othello (pages 1112–1115 of the eText and page 1024 to view the Student Essay). A video performance and an animated lesson on the play are also available in MyLiteratureLab Multimedia for you to watch.
- Use evidence from Sophocles’ Oedipus, from Shakespeare’s Othello, Moor of Venice, and from secondary sources to explain why you agree or disagree with this statement: “The downfall of Oedipus is the work of the gods; the downfall of Othello is self-inflicted” (Should you choose this option, you need to read both Oedipus and Othello in full).
- Discuss the author’s perception of death and the treatment of death in Everyman.
OEDIPUS THE TRAGIC HERO
The assignment, thesis statement: Oedipus is the embodiment of Aristotle’s characterization of a tragic hero through his ability and power to preserve his virtue, knowledge, and knowledge irrespective of his flaws and predicament.
- Sophocles’ Oedipus: The tragic hero of the story
- Definition of a tragic hero
- True picture of Oedipus character as it relates to the story
- The use of tragedy language in the story
- The effect of tragedy on the audience and all readers
- Aristotle’s concept of a tragic story
- The importance of the tragic plot to the story
- Virtue and morality
- Identification of Oedipus’ character
- Oedipus obtains virtue, wisdom, and knowledge by judging poorly and making wrong decisions.
Oedipus as the Ideal Tragic Hero
Oedipus, the primary and the key character of the drama, is a great and famous king with ideal traits and character in his individual personality. However, he is tragic due to a tragic flaw regarding his moral disposition. This mixture makes the readers and audience have the tragic experience of catharsis at the end of the drama when all the good of Oedipus is wasted in his struggle against the evil. Being one of the most well-known tragic heroes in the historical drama, he wasted most of his precious time fighting his inner evil and demons despite being a great king. His strange and peculiar fate leads him to the tragic downfall that leaves the readers and audiences feeling emotionally affected considering that he had shown great potential and personality at the start of the drama. Oedipus is that ill-fated tragic character that perfectly fits Aristotle’s characterization of a tragic hero through his ability to preserve his virtue and wisdom irrespective of his flaws and predicaments. Notably, Oedipus parents had to throw him away on the third of his birth basically because it was told that he would kill his father and marry his mother one time at the moment (Adade-Yeboah). He is the tragic man who was unfortunately pitied by the sphere which was supposed to throw him in the mountains of Kithairon. Additionally, the Aristotelian concept and view of a tragic hero do not expose and show the signs of lack of morality or even the wickedness of the protagonist based on an error of judgment. The tragedy and drama so perfectly fit with the Aristotelian characteristics of Oedipus.
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Based on Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, it is easy to tell that Oedipus perfectly fits the character description through various traits and characteristics that he displays and the origin of his tragic fall. An example of some of the traits in the drama that displays his character includes;
“There remains then the man who occupies the mean between saintliness and depravity. He is not extraordinary in virtue and righteousness and yet does not fall into bad fortune because of the evil and wickedness, but because of some hamartia of a kind found in men of high reputation and good fortunes such as Oedipus and Thyestes and famous men of similar families.”
In addition, the origin of Oedipus fall perfectly fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. From the story, it is to pinpoint that Oedipus is not a saint and his extraordinary ability to outshine the Sphinx and solve the riddle which gives him much needed reverence. Oedipus goes on to become a king a reward that he receives after saving the people of Thebes, which eventually makes his popular among the people as well as earns him the power to become a leader in the city (Goldhill, 2015). As evident in the drama, Oedipus becomes so powerful and popular in the city to the extent that the priest addresses Oedipus as “great Oedipus, the powerful king of Thebes.” It is worth noting that Aristotle’s concept, Oedipus’s downfall does not necessarily come from his wickedness, but rather it is as a result of a combination of factors that determines his fate.
King Oedipus can be taken as a typical hero of classical tragedies. Aristotle, the first philosopher to theorize the art of drama, obviously studied Oedipus and based his observations on the qualities of a tragic hero upon the example of Oedipus. One of the factors that significantly contributed to the fall of the great King Oedipus is his anger towards Tiresias, which greatly reflects his own weaknesses which would eventually lead to his doom. As the drama starts, Oedipus was quick to anger, and he is unable to contain his own anger when blind tries to warn him, but instead of listening to the wise words of the prophet, he sends him away, and this clearly demonstrates the error of judgment which Aristotle refers to his definition. Oedipus is a great king as the opening scene showed him in his magnificence and concerned about the welfare of his people. However, the responsibility of tragedy is placed on his weaknesses such as anger and temper, although Aristotle refuses to blame him, considering that he still maintained his goodness and virtue which were true. Moreover, Aristotle blames human error as opposed to lack of morality as the primary cause of the tragedy that befalls the great king. Despite the fact that Oedipus audiences and readers can question morality based on guilty of incest and character flaws, his virtue is unquestionable, and at the end of the drama, his anger is redeemed to make him even better person and leader than his old self. Besides, he still holds on his knowledge and wisdom, even at old age and when he became blind and doomed to exile, which is clearly displayed by the words “ or kill me, hurl me into the sea, away from men’s eyes forever, of all men, I alone can bear this guilt.”
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It seems like Oedipus could have avoided his ill-destine if he could have taken certain measures and precautions in his life. If he could have promised never to kill a man or marry an aged woman, he would have done better both as a king and as a person. On the other hand, Aristotle feels that language diversity in the drama has significantly enhanced the play as well as enabling more and more individuals from different parts of the globe to appreciate the work. Aristotle also believes that the language must be sweet in tragedy and the language used by different characters should be in a position to depict the social stands of the character’s which help in creating vivid images in the minds of both the readers and the audiences (Rahman, 2015). Besides, he feels that there is the need to use meaningful language to reflect the entire play in a real life concept as well as stressing the seriousness of the tragedy in the play.
Basing our argument on Aristotle’s idea and the concept of a plot, it is correct to say that King Oedipus has very interesting and distinguishing plot that helps to create suspense among the readers and audiences making them want to see more or read more. In addition, throughout the play, genuine emotions are created especially where real life experiences are concerned by those who can identify with the experiences and find a strong correlation between fictitious characters and their own lives. This a clear indication that the play presents a complex relationship between tragedy and emotions and the audiences are free to react to the sequence of events in the play feeling pity for Oedipus about his fate and predicament. Aristotle calls for the creation of a full-scale illusion of a real-life experience and as a result, for the audiences’ emotional identification with characters and all the events they have to go through on the play. Only such emotional identification and connection can lead to the proper tragic pleasure that Aristotle is over. The sequences of events and circumstances do not actually follow a chronological order which helps to enhance suspense of the plot as well as capturing the attention of all readers and audiences. This is clear in the play, especially at the beginning of the play where Oedipus is already the great and famous king of Thebes, yet the audiences and readers come to learn about his childhood and his biological parents far much later in the play.
Notably, Aristotle helps in the promotion of a plot that balances important aspects of the play such as wholeness, magnitude, and complicity. The length and complexity of the play indicate the seriousness, significance and the importance of the plot both to the readers and audiences. Moreover, there is a strong connection between the action and the plot of the play considering that they are interdependent and fundamental to the play. The action of the play is linked up with the plot because the plot is the synthesis of the individual acts. On the same note, Aristotle perfectly employs virtue and morality as the two primary concepts and ideas relating to the tragic hero and his fate and predicament (Liang, 2015). As a result, the audience and the readers have an opportunity to identify themselves with the characters of these paramount concepts in addition to the characters actions and how they can be related to the audiences.
Aristotle’s concepts and ideas of a tragic hero, tragedy, and drama are important to the relevance and enjoyment of the play. The Aristotelian tragic hero is endowed with powerful characters such as virtue and error but finally, falls as a result of an error in judgment and not from his wickedness. Moreover, the great king Oedipus would have had a better and happier ending had he controlled his anger, listened to the blind prophet and rectify some of the small mistakes that led to his predicament. Moreover, Aristotelian tragedy imitates real life experiences and at the same time exposes the necessary fundamentals and basics of drama and play. Despite having a tragic end, King Oedipus manages to keep his virtue and wisdom even though his tempers and anger led to his downfall.
Adade-Yeboah, A. &. (n.d.). The tragic hero of the neo-classical revival. 2016 .
Goldhill, S. D. (2015). The Ends of Tragedy: Schelling, Hegel, and Oedipus. . Tragedy and the Idea of Modernity, 129, , 231.
Liang, J. (2015). On tragic heroes: a comparative study of Hamlet and the Orphan of Chao. . Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 5(10), , 2076.
Rahman, M. (2015). Evolution of the Tragic Hero: A Shift from God to Man (Doctoral dissertation, BRAC University).