A tragic hero can be described as a protagonist character who makes one bad judgement that can ultimately lead to the downfall of their life. Aristotle observes a tragic hero as someone coming from “high estate”, in other words member of a royal family. Oedipus from Sophocles Oedipus the King is considered a tragic her because he comes from a royal family and he made choices in life that lead to his downfall. Oedipus makes choices throughout his life that lead to his downfall. What starts the downfall of Oedipus is his determination to find Laius the former king and have the curse lifted. From the Literature Collection, it is said “that such plays as Sophocles’s Oedipus the King depicted powerful men undone by misfortune, their own bad judgement, or hubris, and thrown into defeat and exile” (Kennedy and Gioia 857). Oedipus the King exemplifies Aristotle’s tragic hero through his flaws, characteristics, and fate.
The first way that Oedipus exemplifies a tragic hero is through his flaws. No matter what family you come from rich or poor, big or small everyone has their flaws. Oedipus the King shows us that one of his flaws is his temper. Some may call this a tragic flaw because his temper leads him to make choices that result in a downfall. Where Oedipus exemplifies his flaw of temper is the killing of his father King Laius. Not only does Oedipus have a temper but he has a violent temper. Oedipus’s temper lead him to make a choice of kill is father and this essentially lead to his downfall. Another example where Oedipus shows his temper is when he was brought bad news from Creon and Teiresias he lashes out at them. By having this flaw of temper this leads to Oedipus to make decisions someone would normally not make. Oedipus also has a flaw of being narrow-minded when it comes to situations. Oedipus only considers one side of the story without looking at all sides of the problem. As said by Marjorie Barstow from The Classical Weekly, “He has no clear vision which enables him to examine every side of a matter with unclouded eyes, and to see all things in due perspective” (Barstow 3). By Oedipus being narrow minded he is making rash decisions that lead to his downfall as a tragic hero.
The second way Oedipus exemplifies a tragic hero is his characteristics show throughout the play. The first character trait shown by Oedipus is determination. This is a character trait that is a con for Oedipus. While determination is a good character trait for others, determination for Oedipus leads to his downfall. An example of this, is the determination that Oedipus has in to find the identity of King Laius killer. This can also go back to a flaw of Oedipus as he is a narrow-minded like person. The narrow-mindedness can affect the determination that he has. Ultimately this leads to Oedipus making decisions too quickly because he is determined and narrow-minded. Another character trait that Oedipus exemplifies is excessive pride. This character trait really got Oedipus in trouble when It comes to his downfall. As Oedipus tries to escape his fate by never returning to Corinth. This leads to Oedipus making decisions that lead to his downfall. The choices he made lead to him marrying his mother and killing his father, which are two things that Oedipus feared the most. Another character trait was Oedipus’s anger, which is also considered one of his flaws. By having this anger, it controls the decisions that Oedipus makes when it comes to others in his life. he is seen multiple times lashing out at people closer to him. Oedipus may very well have these characteristics and flaws because of his fate which all lead to his downfall.
The last way Oedipus exemplifies a tragic hero is his fate. How fate is described is like pre-destination, whatever choices Oedipus where to make it would still lead him to become a tragic hero. It is said by John Savoie “Oedipus desperately tries to disbelieve a nightmarish prophecy that comes true despite his, as well as others’, best efforts to prevent that fate” (Savoie). But there are some that believe that Oedipus’s fate has little to do with his tragic hero downfall. Kurt Fosso students have “believed that what happened to Oedipus happened because it was cruelly fated, and that in the end the play could mean little more than what Oedipus himself reckons about his destined lot…” (Fosso).
In conclusion, a tragic hero falls because it is the nature of tragedy for a protagonist. Not everyone’s life is perfect no matter if you come from the rich or the poor. Oedipus the King exemplifies Aristotle’s tragic hero through his flaws, characteristics, and fate.
Barstow, Marjorie. “Oedipus Rex as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Aristotle.” The Classical Weekly 6 (1912): 2. ProQuest. Web. 6 Dec. 2017.
Fosso, Kurt. “Oedipus crux: reasonable doubt in Oedipus the King.” College Literature, vol. 39, no. 3, 2012, p. 26+. General OneFile, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A298752185/ITOF?u=vic_liberty=ITOF=c6ba6d02. Accessed 6 Dec. 2017.
Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Custom 8th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2016. 855- 870a. E-Book.
Knox, Bernard MacGregor Walker. Oedipus at Thebes : Sophocles’ Tragic Hero and His Time. Yale University Press, 1998.
Savoie, John. “Abraham and Oedipus: paradigms of comedic and tragic belief.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, vol. 65, no. 4, 2013, p. 228+. General OneFile, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A339427390/ITOF?u=vic_liberty&sid=ITOF&xid=3630a926. Accessed 6 Dec. 2017.
Sophocles. “Oedipus the King.” 430 b.c. Lecture, Pearsonmg.com. Web. 10 December 2017.