Textual Analysis Oedipus

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Aristotle’s play “Oedipus the King” centers on King Oedipus, a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s definition. When defining the tragic hero, Aristotle lists several conditions including: the hero is of noble stature, the hero’s punishment isn’t completely his/her fault, and the hero usually becomes wiser after his/her fall occurs. The story of Oedipus would certainly satisfy all of these conditions. The most important condition however, is that the hero, while not always fully responsible for the misfortunes that befall him/her, usually have a character flaw that is partly responsible for their downfall. Aristotle refers to this as “hamartia,” which is translated to “tragic flaw.” This begs the question: What is Oedipus’s tragic flaw? I believe that arrogance is Oedipus’s flaw and that this becomes apparent during the scene between Teiresias and Oedipus. One of the recurring themes throughout the play involves sight, or lack thereof. Teiresias, while blind, has unprecedented foresight and knowledge. During the scene, Teiresias serves as a window into Oedipus’s character, and it is through this window that we first see Oedipus’s hamartia. When Teiresias is first introduced, he is respected greatly by Oedipus for his abilities. “Teiresias, seer who comprehendest all, lore of the wise and hidden mysteries, high things of heaven and low things of the earth, thou knowest, though thy blinded eyes see naught, what plague infects our city; and we turn to thee, O seer, our one defense and shield. “ To Oedipus, Teiresias is seen as a potential savior, someone who even he as a king can look to in dark times. Yet Teiresias’ refusal to reveal the truth prompts Oedipus to lay accusations at Teiresias: “Thou methinks thou art he, who planned the crime, aye, and performed it too.” After having praised him moments earlier, Oedipus has now turned Teiresias into the enemy.

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