Oedipus Rex as a Tragedy
Oedipus Rex, written by Greek playwright Sophocles, is considered to be one of the most
ingenious yet disturbing plays ever to be written. This drama has greatly influenced Western
culture, as elements of this play can be seen throughout later literature, legend and language,
becoming the standard for all other tragedies to be compared. The tragic figure, in this case
Oedipus, is responsible for his own downfall. This leads to harmatia, or an error in judgement,
usually a direct result of the initial hubris, and sets in motion the incidents or consequences
which lead to the destruction of the individual. The tragic figure must suffer and in turn, be aware
of the reasons for his suffering, but it is more often than not disproportionate to the actual crime.
Also, there must be a moment of tragic illumination or recognition, in which the tragic figure
acknowledges that he is responsible for his eventual downfall.
In short, these characteristics are
main elements in the definition of a tragedy. The tragic hero's self destructive actions convey an
aspect of the human condition. They also raise the question to what extent is the individual
responsible for his own demise, or is he mainly a plaything of the fates. Oedipus Rex embodies
these characteristics to such a degree, that it has become the paradigm of tragedy.
The tragic figure must not only be regarded with respect and admiration, but also evoke
pity with his downfall. This figure is not ordinary but extraordinary; However, we as an audience
do not necessarily identify with the tragic figure, rather we associate some of our character traits
with his and thereby are given a tragic glimpse of the human condition. These are some of the
qualities which make Oedipus such an...