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Oedipus: Tragic Hero

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Patricia Hinko

on 6 January 2015

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Transcript of Oedipus: Tragic Hero

Oedipus: Tragic Hero
What is a tragic hero?
A virtuous man whose misfortune is brought about not by depravity but by some error or frailty. In other words, the protagonist has good morals and intentions but is destined for tragedy or failure due to a tragic flaw
Characteristics of a Tragic Hero
The protagonist must have heroic traits and actions at the beginning of the story
The protagonist possess hamartia (the tragic flaw or mistake that eventually leads to the protagonist's demise) that bring their downfall and demise
The downfall is in the control of the protagonist. It is not an accident
Sometimes, the demise of other characters close to the protagonist happens as well.
Characteristics of a Tragic Hero Continued
The protagonist is then punished for their actions
The punishment is extreme and goes beyond what the character deserves
The protagonist's demise or fall allows the character to gain something
This gain is not a reward but a discovery of self or knowledge
The protagonist's fall evokes pity from the audience
The protagonist was never a "bad" person so the audience does not dislike them
Tracing the Fall of the Hero
Exposition
The protagonist shows greatness through his/her traits and actions
Rising Action
An event happens that starts the downfall
The rest of the rising action is the progression of the downfall
Tracing the Fall of the Hero Continued
Climax
An event happens that brings the demise or downfall of the protagonist
Falling Action
The protagonist realizes his/her downfall
The punishment for the protagonist's action is determined
Resolution
The punishment is carried out
The knowledge that the protagonist gains is revealed
Hamartia and Hubris
Hamartia
The flaw or mistake that eventually leads to the protagonist's downfall
Tends to be a personality trait like ignorance, pride, arrogance
Hubris
Excessive pride
This is Oedipus' hamartia
How Does This Apply to Oedipus?
Each of these characteristics applies to Oedipus. We are going to revisit the story to determine exactly where we can see each characteristic and plot event.
The protagonist must have heroic traits and actions at the beginning of the story
What heroic traits and actions does Oedipus display?
He defeated the sphinx thus saving Thebes
He is willing to save the city again from the plague
"I thought it wrong, my children, to hear the truth / from others, messengers. Here I am myself - / you all know me, the world knows my fame: / I am Oedipus" (6 - 9). Star quote 1
The protagonist possess hamartia (the tragic flaw or mistake that eventually leads to the protagonist's demise) that bring their downfall and the demise of the character
What is Oedipus' hamartia?
Hubris: excessive pride
How do we know that hubris is Oedipus' hamartia?
He makes decisions without thinking.
He assumes that Tiresias and Creon must want his power. Never would he consider that they are right since he is so proud and sure of his abilities. He could never make a mistake.
"Pride breed the tyrant / violent pride, gorging, crammed to bursting / with all that is overripe and rich with ruin - / clawing up to the heights, headlong pride / crashes down the abyss - sheer doom!" (963 -967) The chorus explaining what happens if you are are so prideful to think you can outsmart the gods, your life is doomed
The downfall is in the control of the protagonist. It is not an accident
This topic is up for debate in Oedipus.
Why can people argue that it was controlled by fate thus causing Oedipus to accidentally face his downfall?
The Greeks believed you could not escape your fate. Since your fate is set in stone, there was no way Oedipus could get out of it.
Why can you argue that it was all in Oedipus' control therefore causing Oedipus to face his downfall all on his own?
Oedipus ran away from home when he heard the prophecy. If he never ran away and believed Polybus, he would never had killed his real father and married his real mother
Sometimes, the demise of other characters close to the protagonist happens as well.
What other character faces their demise due to the fall of Oedipus?
Jocasta
Oedipus' daughters
"Such disgrace, and you must bear it all! / Who will marry you then? Not a man on earth. / Your doom is clear: you'll wither away to nothing, / single without a child" (1642 - 1645). Oedipus explaining how horrible his daughters' lives will be
The protagonist is then punished for their actions
How is Oedipus punished for his crime of marrying his mother and killing his father?
He stabs his eyes out
"You, / you'll see no more the pain I suffered, all the pain I caused! / Too long you looked on the ones you never should have seen, / blind to the ones you longed to see, to know! Blind / from this hour on! Blind in the darkness - blind!" (1405 - 1410) Star quote 10
The punishment is extreme and goes beyond what the character deserves
How do we know that Oedipus' punishment was extreme?
Even his mortal enemy would pity him. If your punishment is so bad that someone that hates you would pity you, then it is considered extreme
The punishment is fit for a premeditated crime. Oedipus was native to the fact that he married his mother and killed his father.
Stabbing his eyes out
What is Oedipus' punishment?
The protagonist's demise or fall allows the character to gain something
What self-discovery did Oedipus make?
The truth about his birth
"O god - / all come true, all burst to light! / O light - now let me look my last on you! / I stand revealed at last - / cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, / cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands!" (1305 - 1310). Star quote 9
The protagonist's fall evokes pity from the audience
Who pities Oedipus?
The chorus
"Now I weep like a man who wails the dead / and the dirge comes pouring forth with all my heart!" (1346 - 1347). The chorus crying over what happened to Oedipus as if he were dead
Exposition: The protagonist shows greatness through his/her traits and actions
What greatness does Oedipus show?
Defeating the Sphinx; wanting to help his people with the plague
"I thought it wrong, my children, to hear the truth / from others, messengers. Here I am myself - / you all know me, the world knows my fame: / I am Oedipus" (6 - 9). Star quote 1
Rising Action: An event happens that starts the downfall and the rest of the rising action is the progression of the downfall
What event starts the downfall of Oedipus?
Being told by Tiresias that he is the murderer.
You with your precious eyes, / you're blind the to the corruption of your life, / to the house you live in, those you live with" (470 - 473). First part of star quote 5
Climax: An event happens that brings the demise or downfall of the protagonist
What event brings the downfall of Oedipus?
Being told by the shepherd that Oedipus was given to him by Jocasta as a baby
"All right! [Laius'] son, they said it was - his son! But the one inside, your wife, / she'd tell it best" (1286 - 1288). The shepherd informing Oedipus that the baby he had was Lauis and Jocasta's son
Falling Action: The protagonist realizes his/her downfall and the punishment for the protagonist's action is determined
"O god - / all come true, all burst to light! / O light - now let me look my last on you! / I stand revealed at last - / cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, / cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands!" (1305 - 1310). Star quote 9
What punishment does Oedipus determine for himself?
He must be blind
Resolution: The punishment is carried out and the knowledge that the protagonist gains is revealed
Who is punished?
Oedipus, Jocasta, and their daughters
What are their punishments?
Blindness, death, and a life without friends or a husband
"You, / you'll see no more the pain I suffered, all the pain I caused! / Too long you looked on the ones you never should have seen, / blind to the ones you longed to see, to know! Blind / from this hour on! Blind in the darkness - blind!" (1405 - 1410) Star quote 10
Paradox and Foil
Paradox
Something that seems contradictory but is actually true
Foil
A character that contrasts with the protagonist
Does not have to be the antagonist
The characters are either completely different or they are similar but have one key difference
What is the Paradox?
Where do we see a paradox in Oedipus?
Oedipus' blindness allows him to see
What does this mean?
When Oedipus is able to see, he doesn't know or "see" the truth; when Oedipus is blind, he knows or "sees" the truth
Foil
Who would be the foil for Oedipus?
Creon
How are they the same?
Both well respected
Both have power
What is the key difference?
Creon doesn't have excessive pride so he thinks before he acts
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