Tragic Hero in Oedipus King by Sophocles

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The Tragedy "Oedipus King" by Sophocles

The tragedy "Oedipus King" by Sophocles poses one of the most important questions of the author's time: the will of the gods and the free will of man. However, he also tries to underline the importance of the tragic hero in the tragedy, as this character is the only person, who is able to take a pasting of gods and fate and bear responsibility for the actions of the gods.

Interpretations and Ideas in Classical Poetry

In mythology that served as the parent soil for classical poetry, namely for tragedy, each tragedian gets its interpretation and gains proponents and opponents of his ideas that he was trying to reveal in the work. Thesis: In the plot of his drama, Sophocles depicts Oedipus as a tyrannous, however, the tragic hero, whose heroic and brave actions are demonstrated in the course of the play.

The Clash Between the Will of the Gods and the Will of Man

The major aim of Sophocles' tragedy is to show the clash between the will of the gods and the will of man. If the tragedy Antigone praises the human mind, the tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus raises the person to greater heights. In the play, Oedipus is depicted as a tragic hero, despite his quick temper and skills for violence. Sophocles shows the strength of character, the desire of man to direct life of his own volition: "Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day." (Sophocles 24).

The Tragicalness of Oedipus

Tragicalness of Oedipus lies in his presentation as the person, who has omnipotent power in his hands, but is unable to overcome the will of gods. Sophocles underlines that whatever rank and social position the person has, he is unable to escape sorrows intended by the gods. However, at the same time the author underlines that the reason behind these sorrows is the character, which manifests itself in actions leading to the execution of the will of gods. Oedipus is tyrannous by the will of God, so this is major power, advantage, but the weakness at the same time:

"The tyrant is a child of Pride

Who drinks from his sickening cup

Recklessness and vanity,

Until from his high crest headlong

He plummets to the dust of hope." (Sophocles 45)

Oedipus is powerless to cope with the difficulty, prepared by his fate. His tragedy is his inability to cope with fate. The free will of man and his doom is the main contradiction in the tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus.

The Heroic Actions of Oedipus

The heroic actions of Oedipus are seen throughout the play. For example, the king is a sage who saved Thebes from a terrible sphinx by means of having solved her riddle. The choir of Theban citizens, elders and youth comes to him with the request to save the city, because he is the sage and the only hope of people. As the sage Oedipus claims the necessity to unravel the mystery of the murder of the former king. He investigates it throughout the tragedy. This desire to know the truth is one more demonstration of the heroism of the king, since he dared to know the truth whatever bitter and dangerous it was. Despite the wisdom of Oedipus and his power, he is depicted as a blind man, who does not know the most important things about him: who he is, who his father and mother are. In an effort to learn the truth, he ignores all the warnings. Deep in his heart Oedipus realizes what dangers the truth may hide, however, he is not afraid to know it: "The truth is what I cherish and that's my strength" (Sophocles 34). Thus, it turns out that Oedipus is a wise man who is not wise at the same time. The tragic and heroic features of Oedipus are depicted by Sophocles in the courage of the king: "Let every man in mankind's frailty consider his last day; and let none presume on his good fortune until he find Life, at his death, a memory without pain." (Sophocles 34)

Oedipus' Sense of Responsibility

Oedipus feels his responsibility for the fate of people, his homeland, so he is ready to do everything for his country. The king thinks of the welfare of the state, so he suffers, when he sees the disasters of his citizens. The driving force of the king's actions is the desire to help the weak; Oedipus is not a tyrannous, despite his strong character and power. He considers himself a mediator between gods and people calling himself an assistant of the gods. Even the priest sees Oedipus as the instrument of the God's will in salvation of in Thebes from the monster. However, Oedipus finds it impossible to know the will of the gods Oedipus, so it makes him a tragic hero. On the one hand, Oedipus is a hero, who is brave, but his life is a tragedy, since he is deprived of the chance to know the will of gods, which makes him live in blindness and ignorance.

Works cited

Sophocles, Meineck Peter (trans.) and Woodruff, Paul (trans.) Oedipus Tyrannous. NY:  Hackett Publishing Company, Inc

November 24, 2023


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Sophocles Tragedy

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