English Research Paper - Reynolds 1 Rachel Reynolds Dr...

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Reynolds Rachel Reynolds Dr. Walsh English 206A April 25, 2014 Oedipus Rex: The Ideal Tragic Hero Many scholars have claimed that Oedipus Rex is the ideal tragic hero. A tragic hero must possess four different important traits. First he must be of noble status, such as being a King or coming from royalty. The tragic hero also suffers from a character flaw that blinds him from seeing his ultimate demise. He must suffer from realizing his flaw when it’s too late, also known as catharsis. Lastly, the hero suffers from one major tragic flaw, also referred to as his hamartia, which leads to his ultimate downfall. Oedipus Rex is the ideal tragic hero because he obtains all of the following traits; noble status, suffers from a character flaw, undergoes catharsis, reaches his inevitable downfall from his tragic flaw, and suffers the most of anyone in the play. Aristotle wrote in his Poetics what characteristics he thought the ideal tragic hero should occupy, he wrote Poetics years after Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex. According to Aristotle he felt that Oedipus Rex fit the criteria of the tragic hero far better than any other heroes. Giving Oedipus Rex the title of the ideal tragic hero. Aristotle believed that the tragic hero should possess the following traits; he should have a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall, engage the audience in catharsis, peripeteia or reversal of fortune, experience anagnorisis, and portray excessive 1
Reynolds pride. Aristotle also believed that the character’s fate must be greater than deserved. In Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex it is seen that Oedipus portrays all of these distinct characteristics. In Marjorie Barstow’s essay titled “Oedipus Rex as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Aristotle” she states, “There is no question that the Oedipus Rex fulfills the function of a tragedy, and arouses fear and pity in the highest degree”(Barstow 2). This demonstrates that Oedipus makes the audience feel catharsis and shows that right from the start he demonstrates an important characteristic of the tragic hero. In another essay about Oedipus as the Aristotelian concept of the tragic hero by Charles Reeves, he states “Fear, we are told, is occasioned by the misfortune of one like ourselves” (Reeves 183). In this quote Reeves is describing the way in which the tragic hero should instill fear in the audience to then achieve the feeling of catharsis that is hugely important in Greek tragedies. Also, Barstow states in her essay the definition Aristotle gives for the tragic hero; “he is described as not eminently good and just, not completely under the guidance of true reason, but as falling through some great error or flaw of character, rather than through vice or depravity” (Barstow 2). From reading the play about Oedipus Rex it is clear that he fits into this definition perfectly, he is not necessarily good in that we are informed he killed an old man when crossing into Thebes. Also Oedipus is not at all under guidance of the truth, he is living a life of not knowing who he truly is. Lastly, he demonstrates huge character flaw in that he is

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