Tragic Flaws Of Oedipus Essay

This essay has a total of 1085 words and 6 pages.

Tragic Flaws Of Oedipus




The ancient Greeks were fond believers of Fate. Fate, defined according to Webster's, is
"the principle or determining cause or will by which things in general are believed to
come to be as they are or events to happen as the do." The Greeks take on Fate was
slightly modified. They believed that the gods determined Fate: "…fate, to which in a
mysterious way the gods themselves were subject, was an impersonal force decreeing
ultimate things only, and unconcerned with day by day affairs." It was thought that these
gods worked in subtle ways; this accounts for character flaws (called harmatia in Greek).
Ancient Greeks thought the gods would alter a person's character, in order for that person
to suffer (or gain from) the appropriate outcome. Such was the case in Oedipus's story.

The great Sophoclean play, Oedipus Rex is an amazing play, and one of the first of its
time to accurately portray the common tragic hero. Written in the time of ancient Greece,
Sophocles perfected the use of character flaws in Greek drama with Oedipus Rex. Using
Oedipus as his tragic hero, Sophocles' plays forced the audience to experience a catharsis
of emotions. Sophocles showed the play-watchers Oedipus's life in the beginning as a
"privileged, exalted [person] who [earned his] high repute and status by…intelligence."
Then, the great playwright reached in and violently pulled out the audience's most
sorrowful emotions, pity and fear, in showing Oedipus's "crushing fall" from greatness.

Sophocles intentionally gave certain flaws in character type to Oedipus—he intended a
downfall. That was the purpose of all ancient Greek drama: it was meant as "a dramatic
reminder of [their] own mortality". Sophocles used his plays in order to force people to
learn at other's mistake. Oedipus is a perfect example. His tragic flaws, persistence and
ignorance caused his inevitable doom

Oedipus's persistence is seen even from the beginning of Oedipus Rex. "The first instance
in which [it] is revealed is when he first encounters Teiresias, a seer who refuses to
divulge the truth he admits to knowing." Teiresias begs to Oedipus, "let me go home" .
"However, Oedipus doesn't want anything withheld from him, and he gradually becomes more
heated in his wheedling…" Teiresias even plainly states Oedipus's flaw, "Why persist in
asking? You will not persuade me." Despite this comment, eventually "the prophet spits out
the truth in disgust, and, cursing, takes his leave." This is the first case in which
Oedipus's persistence causes him trouble. Oedipus's persistence comes out again just
before the anagnorisis, when talking with the Shepherd. At this point in the play, "the
subject of Oedipus's inquiry has shifted from the identity of Laios's murderer to his own
identity." Oedipus is searching for an answer, and the Shepherd is reluctant to give it to
him, "For God's love, my King, do not ask me any more!" Yet, the persistence takes over;
"Oedipus is determined to have the whole truth, no matter how disastrous the truth may
be." Finally, as did Teiresias, the Shepherd gave in to Oedipus's flaw and said, "For if
you are what this man says you are, No man living is more wretched than Oedipus." His
"discovery" ensues, suddenly changing him from ignorance to knowledge.

Ignorance is not bliss…for Oedipus anyway. His ignorance causes him to miss obvious
references to his Fate—all of which, if picked up in time, could have allowed Oedipus to
escape his doom. His ignorance is first seen in the encounter with Teiresias. The wise man
clearly states the killer of Laios, "I say that you are the murderer whom you seek."
"[Oedipus] hears the prophecy in language, which is as ominous as it is plain and
unmistakable." It is Oedipus's pure ignorance that limits his understanding of this grave
subject. "He prioritizes the truth above his personal well-being, and, by doing so, admits
his view of fate as a lesser force in his consciousness than the safety of Thebes."
Oedipus even is too ignorant to recognize Teiresias's prediction of his Fate, "…And he
will go tapping the strange earth with his staff…" "Oedipus is not so much challenging
fate as oblivious to it…"

The use of ignorance in the play is also expressed through light and dark imagery. Light,
of course, meaning knowledge, and dark imagery representing ignorance (namely that of
Oedipus). Oedipus's ignorance is very strongly shown in the story, until his epiphany. The
text is flushed with references to Oedipus's darkness, which indicates not only his
ignorance, but also his terrible doom: blindness at his own hands. By far the most
depicting scene of this light and dark imagery is the encounter between Teiresias and
Oedipus. "This confrontation between the figuratively and literally blind proves to be a
clever example of peripety as well as irony." The ignorance is shown that way by
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