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Sophocles’ Oedipus as a Tragic Hero Essay

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Updated: Sep 24th, 2020

What makes Oedipus a Tragic hero? What makes his predicament fascinating rather than merely horrifying?

Oedipus Rex is a great ancient Greek tragedy written by Sophocles in which the tragic story of the king of Phoebe is revealed. His destiny is complex and fascinating. His father, Laius, was predicted that his son would kill him. That is why little Oedipus was left in the mountains to die. However, he is found and raised by Polybus of Corinth (Sophocles 11). Unfortunately, it does not help Oedipus to avoid his destiny. When he returns to Phoebe, he kills his father and marries his mother. The story has a tragic end, but it is not the main thing that makes Oedipus a tragic hero. However, his moral disposition, internal struggle, and his doomed attempts to go against evil and fate are the main aspects that help us to consider him a tragic character (“Oedipus as a Tragic Hero”). He opposes the will of ancient gods and loses, but this struggle makes his predicament fascinating. Oedipus does not know that he kills his father and marries his mother; the only motif he follows is to protect people he loves and become happy (Wood 76). That is why all his actions are not merely horrifying.

Identify and explain the different types of irony in Oedipus Rex.

The given story is also based on irony which is introduced to emphasize Oedipus sufferings and predicaments. In the majority of cases, it comes from his ignorance as he does not know the background of the prophecy. For this reason, the dramatic irony could be found in the fact that the audience knows the events which are unknown to the protagonist. We could understand everything and be terrified of his actions. Besides, there is also the verbal irony that could be found in Oedipus words. He says that Laius murders should be punished (Sophocles 53), but we know who kills the King of Phoebe. Therefore, Oedipus attempts to avoid destiny and protect his parents could be considered the tragic irony (Dems). He does not know that Polybus is not his real father and returns to Phoebe where he kills Laius, who also tried to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled. Additionally, Oedipus arrival to Phoebe is another kind of irony, a situational one (Dems). Trying to escape he comes to the city where the prophecy should be fulfilled.

Evaluate Oedipus’s actions. Is he to blame for what happens?

Cogitating about the given story, we could say that Oedipus could hardly be blamed for all his actions. He is a murderer. However, it was a cruel epoch and violence was one of the ways to solve conflicts. Though, he did not know that Laius was his father, as well as Jocasta, was his mother. He just wanted to protect his family and escaped to another state. However, his ignorance and some mysterious will resulted in the tragic events that happened during the story (Gaillard 98). Oedipus turned out to be helpless in the face of destiny and became parricide.

What is the purpose of the scene in which Oedipus bids farewell to Antigone and Ismene? Explain.

Having discovered the fact that Laius was his father, Oedipus should leave the city because of his decree. Additionally, he is one of the main causes of all misfortunes that it experiences. However, he has two favorite daughters, Antigone and Ismene. Oedipus perfectly realizes the fact that his actions and his life affected their future greatly. They are now cursed and could hardly be happy (“The Story of King Oedipus”). For this reason, the scene of his farewell has a great symbolic meaning. When saying goodbye, he realizes that their lives would be complex and tragic. However, Oedipus is helpless to help his daughters.

Works Cited

Dems, Kristina. “Oedipus Rex: The Three Types of Irony.” bright hub education, Web.

Gaillard, Thierry. Oedipus Reborn, Ancient Traditions and Transgenerational Perspectives. Ecodition, 2014.

“Oedipus as a Tragic Hero.” Bachelorandmaster, Web.

Sophocles. The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version. Harcourt, 1949.

“The Story of King Oedipus.” erenow, Web.

Wood, Rebeca. Tragic Legacies: Investigating Spectres of the Past in Literature: A Comparative Literary Analysis of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Amazon Services International, 2014.

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