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Oedipus is an ideal example of a tragic hero
Oedipus is an ideal example of a tragic hero
Aristotle defines Oedipus as a tragic hero for his unfortunate sequence of events. As a child, Oedipus was given a prophecy that he was to grow up marrying his mother and slaying his father. Jocasta and Laius try to impede the prophecy by killing Oedipus, but in the end, fate was the ultimate victor. Aristotle defines a tragic hero by four qualities: goodness, appropriateness, lifelike, and consistency (Aristotle's Tragic Hero). According to Aristotle, Oedipus is an ideal example of a tragic hero for causing his own downfall, having fallen from his estate, and having an undeserved punishment (sheet).
Because Oedipus is a tragic hero, he makes an error due to human fallibility and ends up suffering as a consequence. Free will and fallibility have caused Oedipus to wander down the path where he will fulfill his prophecy. As a result, "his downfall results from acts for which he is himself is responsible" (Sheet).
According to Aristotle, because Oedipus was born to nobility "his high estate gives him a place of dignity to fall from and perhaps makes his fall seem all the more a calamity in that it involves an entire nation or people" (Sheet). Although Oedipus is a king and should be setting examples for society, he has major flaws such as pride and rage. Oedipus is easily angered and lashed out at Tiresias when he told him that he is his own murder. Before he could get any explanations, Oedipus sent Tiresias away in a fit of rage because his pride made him unwilling to accept the truth. Oedipus had also acted similarly in Corinth when a drunkard had told him Polybus and Merope were not his real parents. His rage resulted in the death of Laius and his men. These flaws show that Oedipus acts on instinct and makes brash decisions. Oedipus also bears the characteristic of being stubborn and eventually forces the truth of his past out of several shepherds. It is also because of characteristics that lead him to his downfall. "And I must hear it. But hear it I will." (Knox 87). His moment of realization is the start of his suffering. Like a responsible King, Oedipus does not commit suicide, but instead gauges his eyes out and banishes himself from the city of Thebes. Oedipus takes responsibility as king and does not want his children shunned upon. As a consequence, Oedipus will live the rest of his life in blindness, a punishment far worse than what he had deserved.
The theme of light and dark plays an essential role in dramatic irony. In search of seeking for the truth, Oedipus was ignorant and refused to believe Tiresias. Ironically, Tiresias is physically blind, and Oedipus is metaphorically blind. When Oedipus had vision he was in the dark for not knowing of his past. However, when Oedipus blinded himself, he was brought from the darkness into the light because he finally knew of his destiny. "O God! It has all come true. Light, let this be the last time I see you. I stand revealed born in shame, married in shame, an unnatural murderer" (Knox 89). To Oedipus, not being able to see the truth metaphorically is the same as not being able to see physically. By blinding himself, he has forced himself to see everything from a different point of view.