Oedipus Rex Term Paper

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Oedipus Rex

Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" is the most famous of his tragedies in which Greek dramatic irony reaches an apex (Sophocles1 pp). Aristotle was a great admirer of Sophocles, and considered Oedipus Rex to be the perfect example of tragedy (Outline pp). According to Aristotle, tragedy is an imitation of action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude, in which language is embellished with each kind of artistic ornament of several kinds found throughout the play (Outline pp). A tragedy is in the form of action, not of narrative, and incidents arouse pity and fear, "wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions ... every tragedy therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality -- namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody" (Outline pp). And for Aristotle, Oedipus Rex contained every element of the perfect tragedy (Outline pp).

According to Aristotle, tragedy is higher and more philosophical than history because history merely relates what has happened while tragedy dramatizes what may or could happen, thus history deals with the particular, while tragedy with the universal (Outline pp). Moreover, events that have happened may be the result of an accident or coincidence, and may also be particular to a specific situation rather than part of a clear "cause-and-effect chain" and have little relevance for others, while tragedy, on the other hand, is rooted in the "fundamental order of the universe and creates a cause-and-effect chain that clearly reveals what may happen at any time or place because that is the way the world operates" (Outline pp). Thus, tragedy does not just arouse pity, but also fear because the audience can envision themselves caught within this cause-and-effect chain (Outline pp). To excite both pity and fear, said Aristotle, is "the distinctive mark of tragic imitation" (Butcher pp).

However, the protagonist cannot be a truly virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity, nor a villain, but rather a character "between these two extremes ... not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty ... he must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous -- a personage like Oedipus" (Butchers pp).

Furthermore, the change of fortune should not be that of from bad to good, but good to bad, and the best tragedies, according to Aristotle, "are founded on the story of a few houses" such as the fortune of Oedipus, who has done or suffered something terrible (Butcher pp). To be a perfect tragedy, fear and pity should result from the inner structure of the piece, for the plot should be constructed so that "he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes Place ... This is the impression ... from hearing the story of the Oedipus" (Butcher pp).

Simple plots have only a "change of fortune" or catastrophe, while complex plots have other, "reversal of intention," peripeteia, and "recognition,' anagnorisis, connected with the catastrophe, both…

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