Oedipus King Typical Greek Tragedy Essay

Oedipus Rex as a Classical Tragedy

Oedipus Rex is a typical classical tragedy because it has the element of tragic setting, atmosphere and mood, tragic character with tragic hamartia, tragic plot design moving to tragic disintegration, and therefore the tragic realization by the character and audience.


The dialogue as well as the language of the chorus also emphasizes the tragic message about the tragic life of the ill-fated Oedipus.

Oedipus Rex is an ancient Greek tragedy which is so typical of the classical tragedies that Aristotle took it as an example to define and illustrate the qualities of a tragedy. Aristotle's definition is a descriptive one (and not prescriptive); the definition of tragedy has been modified because many great tragedies have been written since without being confined to the Aristotelian features. However, it is feasible to first see this tragedy in terms of Aristotle's definition.

Aristotle defined tragedy in terms of its plot, character and action. The plot of a tragedy must consist of one, great and complete action. Each part of the play must contribute to the final tragic consequences and effect. The cause and effect must be logically linked: no external force must intervene. The main tragic character must possess great status and ideal qualities; but he must also have a weakness, though not a moral flaw —this weakness is called ‘hamartia'. The consequence of the character's own error of judgment or of his wrong action must bring the fall, from which there is no escape. This should give us the sense of inevitability, making us accept and realize the reality and the weakness of the character. The reversal and discovery must reveal to the character and the audience the cause of the character's undoing and downfall. It should not be the doing of the external forces, like supernatural forces or of fate and chance.

Besides the tragic plot, we have a typically tragic character, Oedipus. Oedipus is a tragic character because he is a great man with some ideals and with a commitment to find out the truth and cure the problem besetting is country. But like a tragic character, he has a tragic weakness. His tragic weakness is that in the confidence of what he knows or can know he becomes too careless and disrespectful towards the gods, the fate that the oracles have disclosed for him: he defies to any inner voice and wisdom with regards to fate and destiny.

Another tragic element in the play Oedipus Rex is its tragic atmosphere. From beginning to end, we are exposed to very serious and frightening situations. The dramatic conflict among the characters and the dramatic tension that builds in our minds never settles down; and there is no comic element, even like in Shakespearean tragedies. Like in a typical tragedy, the dramatist has designed even the dialogue so carefully as to create and sustain a very serious tone and mood throughout. The hopes that always lead us to fear, and the anxiety that always leads us to frustration finally contributes to the catharsis. Our false hopes and wishes as prompted and guided by the chorus finally collapse into the tragic purification of emotions, which is called catharsis or purgation (in the audience), along with the tragic change in the characters. The chorus is also a corollary element that contributes considerably in the tragic characteristics of this drama.

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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

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