The Tragic Hero Oedipus Rex Essay Research

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The Tragic Hero: Oedipus Rex Essay, Research Paper SEAN WILKINS John Janzen Humanities December 2, 2000 According to the ancient Greeks and Aristotle the hero is a person who possesses superior qualities of mind and body, and who proves his superiority by doing great deeds of valor, strength, or intellect. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex the main character Oedipus possesses these characteristics of a true hero, which in turn lead to his self-destruction. In the beginning of the play Oedipus’s great intellect is made known by the chorus who see him as someone who has proven his wisdom, someone who has single-handedly saved Thebes in years present from the Sphinx, and someone who is adored by his people. He displays his great intellect when the priest declares: You freed us from

the Sphinx; you came to Thebes and cut us loose from the bloody tribute we had paid that harsh, brutal singer. We taught you nothing, no skill, no extra knowledge, still you triumphed. A god was with you, so they say, and we believe it-you lifted up our lives (Sophocles 1226). Another sign of Oedipus’s intellectual achievement is his self-blinding. Though he may not see the world with his eyes, he can now see his true self, and what he was. To me personally Oedipus is a kind of symbol of the human intelligence which cannot rest until it has solved all the riddles, even the last riddle, the riddle of his own life. The hero, being blessed with superior qualities of mind and body, loved to engage in battle, preferably with another hero, since combat gave him the best chance to

demonstrate his Wilkins 2 physical strength. D. Brendan Nagle, author of The Ancient World: A Social and Cultural History, contends that the hero was always belligerent because he regarded combat as, “the ultimate test of human valor, strength, and ability”(91). Oedipus’s physical strength opens the door of opportunity to be king. This physical strength which Oedipus possesses and misuses however will mark the beginning of his downfall. However, Oedipus would be a hero for his defeat of the Sphinx, and his inward strength, not for his skills in combat. But surely, Oedipus is a great man, not in virtue of great worldly position, but as an illusion, which will vanish like a dream. Oedipus is great because of the virtue of his inner strength, strength to pursue the truth at

whatever personal cost, and strength to accept and endure it when found. “This horror is mine,” he cries, “and none but I is strong enough to bear it”(Sophocles 1414). Oedipus had a very strong inward strength, Richard Jebb talks of this inward strength when he comments on Oedipus, “The Theban king … has an inward sense of an strength which can no more be broken; of a vision clearer than that of the bodily eye”(325). Oedipus inner strength is also shown when he asks Creon to drive him out of the land at once, far from everyone’s sight, where he will never hear a human voice ever again. Oedipus accepts his mistakes and will take whatever punishment is handed to him; not once does he cry and ask, “ why is this happening to me?” Instead Oedipus punishes himself

by gouging out his own eyes. Why though does he decide to blind himself? He tells us why; he has blinded himself in order to cut himself off from all human contact, if he could take away his other senses he would. Oedipus has mutilated himself because he can face neither the living nor the dead. Donna Rosenberg, editor of World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics, states in her introduction to Greek Mythology that the hero, “valued strength and skill, Wilkins 3 courage and determination, for these attributes enabled the person to achieve glory and honor both in his lifetime and after he died”(38). When it comes to honor and glory, Oedipus will not even consider the needs and love of his family. But it would be a mistake to view Oedipus as someone who has no