Oedipus: a Tragic Hero

David Fuentes
English 102
Oedipus: A Tragic Hero

In the beginning of Oedipus the King, Oedipus is portrayed as a noble and very compassionate king.   That alone and a whole sequence of lines listed in the play throughout the story give enough evidence to conclude that Oedipus is the tragic hero of a Greek Tragedy.   He is quick to come out and receive the priests that showed up at his altar and says: “Why here and kneeling, what preys upon you so? Some sudden fear? Some strong desire? You can trust me; I am ready to help, I’ll do anything” (1423).   Oedipus has the fate of his community in his hands because of his noble character and the priests make sure they get that across to him by saying: “You cannot equal the gods but we do rate you first of men” (1424). Sophocles is making sure he introduces Oedipus as a great man which is key to defining the play as a Greek tragedy.   The protagonist of a Greek tragedy is someone regarded as extraordinary rather than typical (1419). In this case that definition already applies to Oedipus as soon as he is introduced. The characters in Greek tragedy are usually aristocrats which makes his or her fall more terrifying. This also applies to Oedipus because he is born of the King and Queen of Thebes. However, Oedipus believes his parents are the King and Queen of Corinth. Oedipus was abandoned as a baby and adopted by them. Because that information is only known by us and not by Oedipus before the start of the play, it is a perfect example of tragic irony because when he declares that he will find the murderer of the king of Thebes he is the man he is looking for.
Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero consists of an internal tragic flaw, such as an excess of pride, ambition, passion, or some other character trait that leads directly to disaster (1420). Oedipus qualifies under this definition for a tragic hero in a Greek tragedy because he has a character flaw that brings his disaster. Even though it cannot...