Oedipus and Creon are two examples of tragic heroes in the books Oedipus the King and
Before discussing whether or not Creon and Oedipus are a tragic heroes it is important that we
first establish what makes a tragic hero.
In the Poetics, Aristotle defines a tragic hero as, "a man
not preeminently virtuous and just, whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him not by vice
or depravity, but by some error in judgement… the change in the hero’s fortune must not be from
misery to happiness, but on the contrary, from happiness to misery." A tragic hero has the
potential for greatness but his doomed by fate to fail.
A tragic hero is has four defining
He is born into nobility, responsible for his fate, possess a tragic flaw, and falls
from greatness as a result of this flaw.
These characteristics should inspire pity and fear in the
audience of the play resulting in catharsis for the audience or a healthy purging of emotions
causing them to feel better.
Aristotle goes into great length on what kind of hero is fit to be a
He says the hero can not be a good man who falls from grace because his fate was
not brought about by his wrong doing, an evil man who rises from misfortune, or an evil person
who falls from grace because a character whose fate is deserved, would not adequately inspire
pity and fear.
The best hero, he concludes, is not entirely evil or entirely good, but rather a
combination of the two who goes from prosperity to misfortune as a result of hamartia.
translation of hamartia has been debated by scholars but most translate it has a tragic flaw or
A very common tragic flaw is hubris, a sense of overwhelming pride and self
confidence that causes the hero to ignore the law or the gods.
Other common characteristics of a
tragic hero are that he must suffer excessively, must be good natured but imperfect so the
audience can relate to him, and he should be physically or psychologically hurt by his actions.
Oedipus was viewed by Aristotle as the quintessential tragic hero.
In the play Sophocles
establishes Oedipus' nobility very early on portraying him as a very wealthy man, son of a king,
and very famous.
This is evidenced when oedipus boldly states, "Here I am myself- you all
know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus." Aristotle also states in his Poetics that a