1/05/2019

"King Oedipus" as a Classical Tragedy.


  In Poetics Aristotle defines tragedy as “a representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude; in language enriched by a variety of artistic devices appropriate to the several parts of the play; presented in the form of action, not narration; by means of pity and fear bringing about the purgation of such emotions.” Judged by this standard, King Oedipus by Sophocles has all characteristics to be a classical tragedy.

First, the action of King Oedipus is a serious one. The play is about the tragic predicament of a man, Oedipus. Oedipus was destined to commit patricide and incest. He tried to defy his fate. He did everything to save his plague-stricken subjects. He was true to rind out the cause of the pestilence, a murder of Laius. But at last truth came out that Oedipus himself was the killer. To his horror he also learnt that his effort to avoid the prediction of the Oracle ended in smoke. He became the most ignoble person who killed his father and married his mother. He blinded himself and cast himself out of Thebes. Thus, the action of King Oedipus is “worth serious attention”, the helplessness of man to his inexorable fate.

Second, the plot of King Oedipus is complete in itself. Ghat is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Besides, the plot is a complex one preferred by Aristotle. It enriched with variety of artistic devices such as reversal and discovery. Again, Sophocles also maintains the three unities_ unity of action, place and time. There is no sub-plot. The sole concern of the plot devotes to the tragedy of Oedipus. The whole action of the play takes place before the royal palace of Thebes and within the single revolution of the sun.

Third, the Aristotelian tragic hero is an intermediate person and his fall from the zenith of his glory to the nadir of misery is not for vice but for errors of his own. Likewise, the hero of King Oedipus is Oedipus who was a good man. He was of royal root and enjoyed a reputation of a wise man. But he has some flaws in his character and these have made him suffer.

Finally, the main purpose of tragedy is to arouse pity and fear and bring about emotional purgation. King Oedipus in this respect is unique. The suffering of Oedipus exceeds his crime. The audiences feel pity to see his misery. At the same time, they fear that what happens to Oedipus may happen to them. The story of Oedipus makes them realize the uncertainty of human happiness and fortune.

King Oedipus, therefore, fulfils all the criteria that Aristotle proposed for the best tragedy. It is the representation of the life of a man who is actually good but suffers miserably for some inherent faults of his character. His downfall from prosperity to misery shows such vulnerability of human being that is so akin to us.

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