Kingoedipus Essay, Research Paper
According to Aristotle’s Poetics, a tragic hero can be hindered by harmartia which leads to his downfall. In Oedipus the King, a tragic play written by Sophocles shows King Oedipus as having many flaws that fall under the umbrella of hamartia including: stubbornness, madnness, and pride that soon lead to his utimate demise.
Oedipus brandishes an attitude of stubbornness throughout the play. Oedipus’ stubbornness is revealed early in the play when Tiresias, a prophet of Apollo, advises Oedipus to terminate the investigation of Laius’ killer. Oedipus quickly disagrees, he wants to find the man who murdered Lauis and brought the plague upon Thebes. Oedipus states, “By all the gods, do not deny us what you know. We ask you, all of us, on bended knees.” Tiresias’ persistence to withold the truth is demolished by Oedipus’ stubbornness and madness. Tiresias surrenders to Oedipus’ stubbornness and states the truth which outrages Oedipus; “…The murder of the man whose murder you pursue is you.” Oedipus stubbornness is so overwhelming that he disregards Tiresias’ candor without a slight thought. Oedipus’ statement, “To your heart’s content. Mouth away!” clearly shows his stubborness when he neglects Tiresias’ prophecy and regards it as jibberish.
Oedipus’ stubborn persistence will eventually lead to his mother’s death. At the end of the play Oedipus realizes that he was adopted and immediately investigates his origin. Jocasta, Oedipus’ wife relunctantly exhorts Oedipus to end his identity search, fearing that Oedipus will discover his wretched sins of killing his father and marrying his mother. Oedipus stubbornly object and states, “…I can’t stop now. Not with all my birth clues in my hands. ….Pursuing it? I must?”
Oedipus calls upon a heardsman from Cithaeron who can provide him with some knowledge of his parental background. The Shepheard at first tries to deny any knowledge of Oedipus’ background. Oedipus quickly becomes outraged and yields to his stubbornness. Oedipus forces the Shepherd to speak, as the Shepherd fulfills Oedipus mandate he also remarks, “By all the gods, sir, don’t ask me any more!’. Tragically Oedipus is too stubborn to listen and retaliate with a fatal threat,”If I have to ask again-you’re dead.” The Shepherd willfully obliges Oedipus’ command and explains how Jocasta and Laius are his blood parents. Due to his stubbornness, Oedipus will live on in sin and punishment for persistently having his way while disregarding the advice of his contemporaries.
Oedipus’ madness also contributes greatly to his ultimate demise. Long before Oedipus embarks on his journey to Thebes, he was warned by an oracle that one day he would kill his father. Fearing this, Oedipus starts out on his journey to separate himself from his family in Corinth, not knowing that the King and Queen of Corinth are not his blood parents. During the journey Oedipus encounters his real father, Laius and his entourage. Anger and madness arise between Oedipus and Laius as they dispute the right of way. Oedipus, fully aware that his fate is to murder his father, becomes outraged and doesn’t take any precautions toward nonviolence. Sophocles shows that Oedipus’ madness is a major flaw, and one that fulfills his destiny by remarking, “he brawls with an old man in a carriage over right of way and in a fit of temper kills him.” Oedipus once again causes his own tragic destiny by allowing his madnness to take over instead of thinking before he acts upon a situation.
His madness is the core element that causes him to lose control. Early in the play, Oedipus is confronted by Tiresias who accuses Oedipus as the killer of Laius. Oedipus quickly loses control and inveighs at Tiresias, and states,”…Creon the loyal, Creon so long my friend! Stealing up to overthrow and snatch…I’d lash you with the lesson of your fraud.” Oedipus evidently loses control due to his madness. He quickly changes the subject away from the accusation and starts scolding Tiresias and Creon for conspiring to attain his thrown. Oedipus tends to let his madnness do the talking, this fatal flaw will eventually lead Oedipus to his downfall.
The beginning of the Second Episode clearly illustrates Oedipus’ madness and inner chaos when he starts incriminating Creon for attempting to overthrow him with the help of Tiresias. Creon retaliates with a plausible argument that he doesn’t have to overthrow Oedipus because he himself has an equal third of the power minus the responsibilities of Oedipus and Jocasta, therefore it’s totally impractical for him to try to usurp Oedipus’ thrown. Sadly, Oedipus’ monumental madness impedes him from reasoning and he states to Creon, “…I want you dead: A lesson to all of how much envy’s worth.” One factor that facillitates Oedipus’ demise is that Oedipus displays an attitude of madnness and often jumps to conclusions too soon.
Oedipus’ excessive pride which he displays throughout the play is a major factor towards his downfall. While Oedipus may be the current King of Thebes, he ranks himself beyond the position of a king due to his pride; Oedipus’ first display of excessive pride is at the beginning of the prologue when he states,”Yes, I whom men call Oedipus the Great.”
Oedipus’ overweening pride is also illustrated at the end of the ode of entry. Oedipus is accusing Tiresias and Creon for conspiring to pin the death of Laius on him. While the tension arises between Tiresias and Oedipus, Oedipus’ pride reappears when he implies that riddle solving is his strong point and only a man of his intellect would be able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. Oedipus further ridicules Tiresias for not having a mind to solve riddles by stating,”…When the bitch-dog Sphinx of riddles sang, you never spoke a thing to break the spell?…But I, the Oedipus who stumbled here without a hint, could sniff her out by human wits…” Oedipus’ excessive pride causes him to formulate an opinion of a person or situation too early, this trait will accompany him with many problems throughout his life.
Indeed, hamartia is not the only factor that leads to Oedipus’ utimate demise, but it is the root causing the problem of his downfall. Oedipus displays many flaws throughout the play, like many tragic heroes Oedipus eventually faces his downfall. It isn’t Oedipus’ fate or destiny to become doomed from his wretched sins, it is his error of judgement and the flaws in his character that impede him from reigning!