Oedipus Rex as a Great Tragedy In approximately 330 B.C., Aristotle wrote the Poetics, which became a guideline for identifying the properties of a great tragedy. He believed that a good tragedy should be serious, complete, and have a degree of magnitude. He also held that a good tragedy should evoke feelings of pity and fear in the reader and have a sense of universality. The ancient tragedy Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, is recognized as a great piece of writing because it exemplifies these qualities described in Aristotle's Poetics.
In Poetics, Aristotle described tragedy to be an imitation of events that is "serious and complete, and of a certain magnitude."Ã¯Â¿Â½ The reader can clearly see these qualities in Oedipus Rex. The play is unquestionably serious, as it deals with the theme of plague, "hateful plague, he hounds the city,"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and incest, "my own mother's husband."Ã¯Â¿Â½ It is also complete as it is crafted so that the plot unfolds from beginning to end.
The people of Thebes come to Oedipus with the problem of the plague, Oedipus vows to solve the problem by finding the murderer, and the resolution, where Oedipus learns that it is he who is the guilty party. Finally, Oedipus Rex has a degree of magnitude. This magnitude is derived from Oedipus' struggle with his fate. Oedipus tries to defy the gods and does everything that he can to attempt to alter his terrible fate. This contest of man versus his destiny contributes to the magnitude of the play.
According to Aristotle, a good tragedy should arouse feelings of pity and fear in the reader, which Oedipus Rex does very well. In the play, Oedipus is a proud man, the king of Thebes, who suffers as the result of a terrible prophecy.
When he learns that he has...