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Aristotle defines tragedy as an replication of an action that is made to look serious, comprehensive and of a specific enormity. There as thus six elements which, according to Aristotle, make up the quality of a good tragic drama. These include the plot of the story which gives the flow of the events in the story. The plot must contain the cause and effect whose climax is reached as a result of the earlier incidents and whose end is arrived at from the presiding events. The second element is the character whose work is to support the plot of the drama. For the protagonist, s/he should be celebrated and prosperous and his fortune changes from good to bad. The next element is thought which seen when something has been proved wrong or right. Thought also include the themes that are illustrated in the drama. The fourth element is diction which entails the pronunciation and extraction of the meaning of the story in words. Melody or song is the fifth element and it is attributed to the chorus and should be wholly incorporated in the play just like the actors. Last is the spectacle which depends on the attractiveness of the stage rather than the creativity of the poet. Aristotle goes ahead to give the characteristics of a tragic hero; he mentions that is of nobility and greatness, he is not always perfect, he should encounter a downfall which is out of fate, and he is to face a punishment that exceeds his crime. However his fall is not a total loss; he becomes aware in the mistakes he makes and though his tragedy arouses some emotions, it does not leave the audience depressed.
The play “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles describes the story of a city, Thebes, which has been struck by a plague. Oedipus is the king of Thebes and his people gather in dismay and ask him to do something so as to save them. Oedipus has already sent Creon to the oracle to consult on how they can save the city. He however comes back with a message that the plague will only end when the killer of the former king of Thebes, Laius, is expelled from the city. He then calls for prophet Tiresias to come and tell him what he knows about the murder. Tiresias seems to know who the murderer is but he is unable to speak. Oedipus blames him for keeping the secret while the people suspect that it is Oedipus who liked the former king (Sophocles, 1947, p.16). In that argument, Tiresias mentions Oedipus parents and he is surprised at how he knew about them while he was brought up in Corinth. Tiresias tell him that he knew Oedipus’s parents mysteriously and as he left the stage he points out that the murderer of Laius will become the brother and father to his own children and the offspring of his own spouse. At the mention of this, Oedipus threatens to kill Creon for siding with Tiresias and the whole place becomes noisy (Sophocles, 1947, p.17).
At this point, Jocasta, the window of Laius and also the current Oedipus’s wife, comes in and asks what the noise is for. Oedipus explains that the prophet has accused him for the death of Laius but Jocasta assures him that the murder was committed by thieves on a three-way junction before he, Oedipus, came to Thebes. The description of the murder however sounds familiar to Oedipus and he highly suspects that he could be the murderer. He tells Jocasta that he overheard that he was not the true son of the royal family and when he looked for the truth he was told that he will kill his own father and sleep with his own mother thus to avoid this from happening he flee away from Corinth. In his journey, he encountered a group of people who attacked him and killed them all except one in self-defence and that all this happened at the same spot that Jocasta had mentioned (Sophocles, 1947, p.19).
He asks for the man, a shepherd, who had survived the tragedy to come and testify hoping that he will not identify him as the murderer. Before he arrives, a messenger comes with the message that Oedipus’s father, the king of Corinth is dead and that Oedipus should go and take over the kingdom Jocasta rejoices at this (Sophocles, 1947, p.46). He also mentions that he should not worry since the king was not his biological father and that there was one shepherd who new the whole story well. Oedipus calls for this shepherd to come and testify. Suspecting that the truth will be revealed, Jocasta goes back to the palace. The shepherd does not want to reveal the truth but Oedipus threatens to kill him if he does not tell him. He finally discloses that Oedipus was the son of Laius but was adopted by the king of Corinth after he was disowned by his parents following a prophecy that he would kill his own father and make his mother his wife. Realising his true identity, he yells and goes back to the palace. He finds Jocasta has hanged herself; he removes the pins from her cloths and blinds himself. He comes back bleeding and asking to be expelled from the town (Sophocles, 1947, p.63).
He is expelled and goes to wonder in unknown places until steps on a holy ground when he remembers that at some point the gods promised him that he would rest on that ground. He calls for Theseus, the king of Athens who pities for what had befallen Oedipus and offers to help him. Oedipus requests Theseus to take and live with him in until he dies though he cautions that this would bring the rage of Thebes to Athens. Just before his death, a dreadful thunder is heard and Oedipus calls for Theseus. He tells him that his time of death had come and he must perform some rites over Oedipus’s body so as to protect the city. He leads Theseus to the place of his death and tells him no to disclose to anyone except his son during his death who is also to do the same. The earth burst open and he just disappeared (Sophocles, 1947, p. 65).
From the unfortunate flow of events, we can confidently affirm that Oedipus is the perfect example of Aristotle’s tragic hero. As a child, a prophecy was made that when he grew up he would put his father to death and marry his mother. His biological parents, Laius and Jocasta try to evade the prophecy by killing him but the gods protect him and he is adopted by a royal family where he is brought up as a prince (Sophocles, 1947, p. 24). As he grows he believes that he can avoid the oracle that he will kill his father and take his mother in marriage. He leaves Corinth thinking that he has outsmarted the will of the gods but instead they are manipulating his will and leading him to the very place that he would commit the murder. At first, Oedipus is a good person and as a king, he virtuously rules Thebes and saves the whole city by giving a solution to the Sphinx riddle. When Thebes experiences the second plague, he tells them that he feels their suffering and that his is even worse than theirs. He knows what is best for his people and they trust his to an extent they take him for God. All the people in Thebes acknowledge his for his good leadership “This is the house,and he is the good sir within” (Sophocles, 1947, p.46)
Since a tragic hero is not perfect, he falls because of his character. He is bad tempered and stubborn; will do anything that he thinks of without considering the outcome. His temper makes him kill his father and his wish to do anything led him to knowing the truth about his ability. Jocasta keeps on telling him not to seek for more information since it may cause him great harm but he insists that he must know the truth. Thus he falls by killing his father and marrying his mother due to his imperfection, an act which he is responsible of. He is born to noble family and the society does not expect him to fall and when he falls, it seems more of a calamity that involves the whole community. The moment he suspects that Laius and Jocasta were his true parents, his suffering begins. He is not at peace and he struggles to know the truth. He seeks information from all reliable sources and when he finally realises the truth, his punishment begins; he pricks his eyes and becomes blind for the rest of his life living away from his rightful home. This punishment is more than he deserves (Sophocles, 1947, p. 63).
As his downfall comes to pass and the play comes to an end, the story gains the purgation of the viewers. Throughout the play, Oedipus brings out the sense of fear and pity to the audience. They fear his true identity and do not want to find it out. The pity is brought out by his downfall towards the end of the story. Thus the story is a tragedy drama because it brings out the purgation of the viewers and Oedipus is the tragic hero he has arouse these feelings and fulfilled the other Aristotle’s requirements.
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