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What sort of tragic hero is Oedipus? Free essay! Download now

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What sort of tragic hero is Oedipus?

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Downloads to date: N/A | Words: 2800 | Submitted: 02-Feb-2005
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What sort of tragic hero is Oedipus?
(With respect to both character and plot)

Explores the ancient characteristics of tragedy and evaluates how Oedipus can be seen as a tragic hero.


The myth of Oedipus would have been well known at the time of the play’s construction, and Sophocles made use of this story in a way in which neither divine agency nor chance bring about Oedipus’ discovery of the truth but crucially he himself – he makes his own rendezvous with his predestined disaster. Indeed it is his character which chiefly brings this about.
Oedipus’ character would have been well known to a contemporary Athenian audience. Oedipus is the embodiment of the perfect Athenian. He is self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed. Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his tragic discovery of the truth. Much of what constitutes Oedipus’ character corresponds exactly to the Athenian virtues, which were expounded by the Athenian leader Pericles in his funeral oration. Oedipus is a man of swift and vigorous actions. “Athens,” said Pericles, “will be the envy of the man who has a will to action”. This swift action forces Tiresias, Jocasta and the shepherd, despite their obvious reluctance, to play their part in the speedy denouement of the plot. Another great Athenian virtue too can be seen in Oedipus character, that of courage. It was characteristic of Athenian courage that it rose to its greatest heights when the situation seemed most desperate. Indeed, this is exactly what is seen in the play – Oedipus’ most defiant and optimistic statement comes when Jocasta, knowing the truth has gone off to hang herself, and the audience waits for the appearance of the shepherd who, under duress, will reluctantly supply the last piece of evidence that identifies Oedipus as the son of Laius and Jocasta. Numerous examples of Oedipus’ ability to act quickly and therefore efficiently can be seen in the tragedy.

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