Socrates Oedipus





Socrates: Oedipus

Basing on his Excerpt on Tragedy, from The Poetics (pp. 123-125), Aristotle gives an outline of the necessary requirements for a perfect tragedy. These ingredients are provided for in the Sophocles, Excerpt from Oedipus (PP. 110-113). According to him, a perfect tragedy should contain a tragic plot comprising of peripeteia, anagnorisis, as well as catastrophe. Oedipus, his perfect character, exhibits this tragedy, as he suffers from happiness to misery due to his tragic flaw. Therefore, a tragedy must be a story which mimics life’s challenges, in that it must be serious and complete in itself.

An effective tragedy evokes emotion, pity, or fear in the viewers. In his excerpt, Sophocles brings out the murder of the Laius, the king. Incidences of murder tend to evoke fear among viewers. Oedipus commits atrocities against his own biological father. He also commits an abomination by marrying his mother. Furthermore, he threatens to jail Teiresias, the seer and either banish or execute Creon (Sophocles, pp. 110-113). The fact that he killed his own father instills fear in the viewer.

The viewers are likely to show pity to Oedipus as the truth unveils out. The Oracle’s prophecy is inevitable and no matter how hard he tries to delay, it must be fulfilled. They may also show sympathy to the queen, Jocasta. Sooner or later, she will find out that Oedipus is his son and how she handles this reality may evoke sympathy from the viewers. Oedipus’ banishment from the kingdom may evoke pity; a great and powerful king humbled by his subjects. Ergo, the viewer becomes elated as they watch the play.

Oedipus exhibits peripeteia, a condition in which fortunes reverse from happiness to disaster. As a king, he enjoys the wealth and affluence that comes with royalty. He is a man of influence and power. His enjoyment is, however, short-lived when disaster strikes the land. Upon consulting Teiresias, the seer, Oedipus is shown that the death of the former king has something to do with the plague. The king’s murderer has to be sought out, and as it turns out, later, Oedipus is responsible for Laius’s death. His reversal of fortune occurs when he realizes that he is Laius’s son and the queen, Jocasta, is his mother. The messenger who comes to the palace narrates his childhood memories (Sophocles pp. 110-113), confirming his fears.

Dramatic irony is usually an important aspect of Aristotle’s tragedy. There are many incidences of dramatic irony in Sophocles’ poetic excerpt. Since his childhood, Oedipus has known his father to be Polybus. When the Oracle spoke of him killing his father and marrying his mother, he runs away from home to a faraway land to avert the fulfillment of the prophecy. On the way, he meets Laius, who wages war on him. Oedipus manages to kill Laius and his entourage, except one slave who escapes death to report the king’s death.

After becoming king, Oedipus marries Jocasta, Laius wife. The two are blessed with children. All along, he has not been aware that Jocasta is his mother and Laius, his biological father. This only comes to him as a rude shock when the land is plagued, and catharsis is necessary. Teiresias points out vaguely that Oedipus is responsible for the plague since he has committed atrocious acts. In his quest to find out Laius killer, the truth dawns on him that he is indeed responsible for the death of his father. The messenger to the palace confirms his worst fears; he killed his father and married his own mother. What is more interesting is that his subjects are not aware of his atrocious acts!

A perfect tragedy has a tragic hero. This hero is better than we are. He is superior to the average man in some way. Oedipus was the only person with the ability to solve the Sphinx riddle (Sophocles 111). This makes him smart and outstanding socially. Furthermore, he is made king, a position which an ordinary man cannot reach. As a king, he is entitled to royal treatment and affluence that comes with power. He can, therefore, give out commands to be executed by his subjects.

Aristotle argues that a tragic hero must evoke pity as well as fear. The best way of doing this is by being imperfect. Oedipus is far from perfect considering his actions. A character that is both good and evil is far more compelling than one who is merely good. Oedipus is such a wonderful character. At the beginning, he is a good king who cares for the welfare of his subjects. When disaster strikes, he looks for the possible cause to find a solution to the problem. Teiresias and Creon are the only ones aware of his evil deeds (Sophocles p.112). Later on, his evil deeds become known in the whole kingdom. This, therefore, evokes sympathy.

Furthermore, a tragic hero suffers because of his shortcomings. Oedipus flaws commence when he kills his father Laius unknowingly at the crossroads while escaping the fulfillment of the oracle. This hamartia (Or otherwise mistake) is the greatest downfall of a hero later in life. Oedipus woes stem from his father’s killings. This flaw is responsible for his banishment from the kingdom (Sophocles 113).

Works Cited

Sophocles. Oedipus the King, (Translated by F. Storr). Accessed November 23, 2013, HYPERLINK “”, on.

Aristotle, George Whalley, John Baxter, and Patrick Atherton. Aristotle’s Poetics. Montreal [Que.: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997.

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