Oedipus Rex - Classic Tragic Hero
Uploaded by JarJarBinks on Jul 05, 2004
In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus is a classic tragic hero. According to Aristotle's definition, Oedipus is a tragic hero because he is a king whose life falls apart when he finds out his life story. There are a number of characteristics described by Aristotle that identify a tragic hero. For example, a tragic hero must cause his own downfall; his fate is not deserved, and his punishment exceeds the crime; he also must be of noble stature and have greatness. Oedipus is in love with his idealized self, but neither the grandiose nor the depressive "Narcissus" can really love himself (Miller 67). All of the above characteristics make Oedipus a tragic hero according to Aristotle's ideas about tragedy, and a narcissist according to Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self.
Using Oedipus as an ideal model, Aristotle says that a tragic hero must be an important or influential man who makes an error in judgment, and who must then suffer the consequences of his actions. Those actions are seen when Oedipus forces Teiresias to reveal his destiny and his father's name. When Teiresias tries to warn him by saying "This day will give you parents and destroy you" (Sophocles line 428), Oedipus still does not care and proceeds with his questioning. The tragic hero must learn a lesson from his errors in judgment and become an example to the audience of what happens when great men fall from their lofty social or political positions. According to Miller, a person who is great, who is admired everywhere, and needs this admiration to survive, has one of the extreme forms of narcissism, which is grandiosity. Grandiosity can be seen when a person admires himself, his qualities, such as beauty, cleverness, and talents, and his success and achievements greatly. If one of these happens to fail, then the catastrophe of a severe depression is near (Miller 34). Those actions happen when the Herdsman tells Oedipus who his mother is, and Oedipus replies "Oh, oh, then everything has come out true. Light, I shall not look on you Again. I have been born where I should not be born, I have been married where I should not marry, I have killed whom I should not kill; now all is clear" (Sophocles lines 1144).
Oedipus's decision to pursue his questioning is wrong; his grandiosity blinded...