Oedipus: King, Tragic Hero - An essay on Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" (Oedipus the King).

Essay by BobmuhtholHigh School, 10th gradeA+, May 2006

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Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, contains a very prominent tragic hero: Oedipus. A tragic hero, by Aristotle's definition of one, must possess six traits. One of them is that the tragic hero must be of noble stature. Another trait of a tragic hero is a tragic flaw. A third trait defined by Aristotle is that a tragic hero must have a period of recognition of his crimes. Oedipus strongly displays each of the three aforementioned, necessary traits; and he is, then, an obvious tragic hero.

Oedipus' noble stature is immediately apparent in Oedipus the King. The play's prologue opens with Oedipus addressing the people of Thebes. He states, "Yes, I whom men call Oedipus the Great" (5). This shows that Oedipus is of certain nobility, as it would be unheard of for any commoner to have the title of Great. Oedipus tells a priest to speak, who begins his reply with, "King Oedipus, the sovereign of our land, you see here young and old clustered round the shrine" (5).

It becomes very clear that Oedipus is King of Thebes; and he is revered in his country. Oedipus is further noble because he is the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. Making him of even more royalty, a messenger from Corinth tells Jocasta about Oedipus, "King Elect of Corinth is he: so runs the order-in-council there" (50). Oedipus, as the only and adopted son of King Polybus of Corinth, is entitled to rule Corinth as well as Thebes.

Oedipus' tragic flaw, which Aristotle has named a hamartia, is one that is seen throughout the play: anger. Oedipus is very much an angry person. Oedipus, at first, is kind to the prophet Tiresias. When Tiresias does not immediately fulfill Oedipus' desire for knowledge regarding the death...