The Tragic Figure of Oedipus Rex Sophocles is perhaps one of the greatest tragedians ever. Sophocles said that a man should never consider himself fortunate unless he can look back on his life and remember that life without pain. For Oedipus Rex, looking back is impossible to do without pain. This pain stems from his prideful life. Oedipus is aware that he alone is responsible for his actions. Oedipus freely chooses to pursue and accept his own life’s destruction. Even though fate victimizes Oedipus, he is a tragic figure since his own heroic qualities, his loyalty to Thebes, and his fidelity to the truth ruin him.
Oedipus’ pride, strung from his own heroic qualities, is one factor that ruined him. A hero prizes above all else his honor and the excellence of his life. When his honor is at stake, all other considerations become irrelevant. The hero “valued strength and skill, courage and determination, for these attributes enabled the person who possessed them to achieve glory and honor, both in his lifetime and after he died” (Rosenburg 38). Oedipus was certainly a hero who was exceptionally intelligent though one can argue that killing four men at Phokis single-handedly more than qualified him as a physical force of reckoning. He obviously knew his heroic status when he greeted the supplicating citizens of Thebes before the palace doors saying, “I would not have you speak through messengers, and therefore I have come myself to hear you – I, Oedipus, who bear the famous name”(Sophocles 1088). Oedipus is “guilty of Hubris- that is, that he is too sure of himself, too confident in his own powers [and] a little undermindful of the gods” (Brooks 573).
Oedipus, a hero of superior intelligence, also displays this …
…anything for granted lest they suffer like Oedipus – a lesson many should carefully consider. Works Cited
Brooks, Cleanth. Understanding Drama. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1948. 573-585.
Dodds, E.R. “On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Michael J. O’Brien. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 17-29.
Knox, Bernard M.W. The Heroic Temper: Studied in Sophocean Tragedy. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1964.
Rosenberg, Donna. World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. Illinois: Passport Books, 1988.
Sewall, Richard B. The Vision of Tragedy. London: Yale University Press, 1959. 25- 43.
Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” Perrines’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. 7th ed. Ed. Thomas R. Arp. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1998. 948-953.