Oedipus Greek Tragedy Essay

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A tragedy by definition is “a drama which recounts an important and casually related series of events in the life of a person of significance, such events culminating in an unhappy catastrophe, the whole treated with great dignity and seriousness';. The Greek tragedies are plays based on myths which were well known and enjoyed by audiences. Most of the plays encompassed certain elements that Aristotle identified in his Poetics. The five Aristotelian elements for a tragedy are: 1. The tragedy must make the audience feel fear and pity toward the actions that take place on stage, and the play should inspire the audience to live better lives; 2. The hero must be of high importance in his society (king, god, etc.), and possess a…show more content…

The gods have cursed Thebes because the murderer of the former King, Laius, was never punished. Oedipus vows to avenge the death of Laius by finding and killing the murderer. This is ironic because Oedipus is the killer of Laius, and the audience knows this because they are already familiar with mythological background. This type of irony is known as dramatic irony, which is an important element in any Greek tragedy. The reversal in this play is most definitely when Oedipus hopes that his investigation of Laius’ murderer will bring him and his kingdom happiness; when in fact, the complete opposite of this transpires and the conclusion is catastrophic. The plot itself follows Aristotle’s’ characteristics of the unity of Action, Time, and Place. The action is unquestionably a series of closely related events because all of the main incidents sequentially occur one right after the other. The plot’s time is most definitely within 24 hours, and the setting does occur in the same place (in the palace of Thebes). The other two elements that Aristotle includes in his definition of tragedy are: the language of the drama, and whether or not the drama evokes feelings of fear or pity for the action that is taking place on stage. I’m sure that Oedipus the King made

In his Poetics, Aristotle outlined the ingredients necessary for a good tragedy, and based his formula on what he considered to be the perfect tragedy, Sophocles's Oedipus the King. According to Aristotle, a tragedy must be an imitation of life in the form of a serious story that is complete in itself; in other words, the story must be realistic and narrow in focus.

A good tragedy will evoke pity and fear in its viewers, causing the viewers to experience a feeling of catharsis. Catharsis, in Greek, means "purgation" or "purification"; running through the gamut of these strong emotions will leave viewers feeling elated, in the same way we often claim that crying might ultimately make you feel better.

Aristotle also outlined the characteristics of an ideal tragic hero. He must be "better than we are," a man who is superior to the average man in some way. In Oedipus's case, he is superior not only because of social standing, but also because he is smart: he is the only person who could solve the Sphinx's riddle. At the same time, a tragic hero must evoke both pity and fear, and Aristotle claims that the best way to do this is if he is imperfect. A character with a mixture of good and evil is more compelling that a character who is merely good. And Oedipus is far from perfect; although a clever man, he is blind to the truth and stubbornly refuses to believe Teiresias's warnings. Although he is a good father, he unwittingly fathered children in incest. A tragic hero suffers because of his hamartia, a Greek word that is often mistakenly translated as "tragic flaw" but really means "mistake". Oedipus' mistake - killing his father at the crossroads - is made unknowingly. Indeed, for him, there is no way of escaping his fate.

The focus on fate reveals another aspect of a tragedy as outlined by Aristotle: dramatic irony. Good tragedies are crammed with irony. The audience knows the outcome of the story already, but the hero does not, making his actions seem painfully ignorant in the face of what is to come. Whenever a character attempts to change fate, this is ironic to an audience who knows that the tragic outcome of the story - as they know it in the myth - cannot be avoided.

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