Research Paper: Poetry, Drama, Aristotle, Sophocles's Oedipus

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[. . .] Aristotle's vision of a hero is further foregrounded in Sophocles' play by the fact that Oedipus has not only proven himself worthy of the title because of his nobility, but also because of his sensitivity, intelligence, and the "natural greatness of soul."

But the hero, the man "not pre-eminently virtuous" as Aristotle described him (Part 13), is also blinded by his impulses on which he acts, unable to look at things in perspective. Marjorie Bastow sympathized with Oedipus because, apart from the fact that he "can see but one side of a matter -- too often he sees that wrongly -- and it is his fashion immediately to act upon such half -- knowledge ... his purposes are good. His emotions, his thoughts, even his errors, have an ardent generosity" (Bastow, p. 3). Because of his impulsive nature, Oedipus alone sets the tone for his already sealed faith. Troubled by what a man at a feast in Corinth had told him, that he was adopted, Oedipus embarks on a journey to confront the Delphi oracle and is confirmed of his destiny. On a reckless thinking, he decides, out of a good intention nonetheless, never to return to Corinth again and sets off to Thebes. On the way there, he is accosted by his real father and again, acting "with his usual misguided promptness," gives course to the fulfillment of the prophecy by murdering him. While reigning over Thebes, his old suspicions return and he is forced by his curiosity to dwell on the matter of whether or not he had really murdered his own father.

Oedipus eventually imposes himself a punishment because of the guilt of what he had, unknowingly, done and measures the punishment with great severity due to the fact that, when Creon had brought him the message from Apollo, that the only way to temper the plague was to exile the murderer of Laius, Oedipus had cast "a doom so terrible" on himself, not knowing at the time the murderer was actually himself. Thus, his impulsiveness, his curiosity and not least his own intelligence are part of the hero's hamartia. This is why the audience feels pity and fears for Oedipus because eventually, he was the victim of destiny.

Aristotle defined anagnorisis as the moment of a sudden revelation or recognition of identity presumably sought right but in fact false. In Oedipus, such a moment is when the Theban herdsman is forced by the protagonist himself to reveal the truth on who his real parents are. The protagonist's reaction finally acknowledges the inevitability of his faith: "Oh, Oh! All brought to pass -- all true! Thou light, may I now look my last upon thee -- I who have been found accursed in birth, accursed in wedlock, accursed in the shedding of blood." This is the moment of Oedipus' misfortune sang by the chorus itself that leads to peripeteia, the shift from happiness to sorrow, from ignorance to knowledge. So, whereas anagnorisis is represented by a single moment or several in turn, which reflect upon the personages, explicitly the tragic hero, the peripeteia is everything else that follows after the recognition. Thus Oedipus, upon Jacosta's suicide, decides for himself the punishment he thinks he deserves. And, as Aristotle suggested in Poetics, that the punishment in a tragedy should be much more severe than actually deserved in order to touch on the audience's emotions and feelings of pity, Oedipus atones for his actions by violently blinding himself and choosing self exile from Thebes and alienation from his daughters. As Ian Johnston stated, Oedipus is a paradox because he initiates his fatally downfall through self assertion (Johnston Lecture).

Reference List

Aristotle (2009). Poetics (I. Bywater, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Original Work Published 1920)

Bastow, M. (1912). Oedipus Rex as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Aristotle. The Classical Weekly, Vol. 6 (No. 1). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4386601?origin=JSTOR-pdf

Gill, N.S. Plot Summary of the Episodes and Stasima of "Oedipus Tyrannos," by Sophocles. About.com. Retrieved from http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/sophocles/a/052410SOphoclesOedipusSummary.htm

Johnston, I. (2000). Fate, Freedom, And the Tragic Experience: An Introductory Lecture on Sophocle's Oedipus The King. Vancouver Island University. Retrieved from https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/introser/oedipus.htm

Struck, P.T. Oedipus as the Ideal Tragic Hero. Retrieved from http://www.classics.upenn.edu/myth/php/tragedy/index.php?page=oedhero [END OF PREVIEW]

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Poetry, Drama, Aristotle, Sophocles's Oedipus.  (2013, April 30).  Retrieved November 12, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/poetry-drama-aristotle-sophocles/7320807

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"Poetry, Drama, Aristotle, Sophocles's Oedipus."  Essaytown.com.  April 30, 2013.  Accessed November 12, 2019.
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