Discuss the character of Oedipus as a tragic hero. or, Does Oedipus have any hamartia or tragic flaw? Consider Oedipus as a tragic hero in the light of that question.
Ans In order to.judge whether Oedipus, as has been depicted in the tragedy King Oedipus, has hamartia or tragic flaw for which he suffers a tragic end, it is necessary to have some idea about hamartia.
Aristotle says that the tragic hero will most effectively evoke both our pity and terror if he is neither thoroughly good nor thoroughly bad, but a mixture of both. The tragic effect will be stronger, in his opinior if the hero is “better than we are”, is of higher moral worth. Such a man is exhibited as suffering a change in fortune from happiness to misery because of mistaken act to which he is led by his hamartia, his “error of judgment”, or his tragic flaw. One common krm of hamartia in the Greek tragedies was hubris, that is pride, pr overweening self-confidence, which leads a man to disregard a divine warning or to violate a moral law. The tragic hero moves us to pity because his misfortune is greater than he deserves. He also moves us to fear because we recognize similar possibilities of error in our own lesser and fallible selves.
The story of King Oedipus reveals the qualities and faults of his character, in the light of which we have to consider whether Oedipus has the stature of an Aristotlean tragic hero whose sufferings are due to a hamartia or tragic flaw. In the very beginning of the drama, we find Oedipus as the king of Thebes, and husband of Jocasta, queen of Thebes. He learns from the Deiphic oracle that a plague which has fallen on the city of Thebes is due tc the presence of the murderer of the late King Laius. Oedipus calls upon all those who have any knowledge of the matter to come forward and reveal it. Teiresias, the blind prophet, is summoned. Bi,.it though he knows the truth, he refuses to disclose it because Oedipus himself is the killer. Oedipus charges Teiresias with conspiracy to dethrone him and put Creon in his place. Teiresias is now compelled to indirectly express that Oedipus himself is the killer. Creon indignantly denies conspiring against him. But Oedipus persists in charging him with conspiring against him. Now Jocasta interferes, and puts the quarrel to a stop, and tells the story, as she knows it, of how King Laius was killed. Her story arouses his suspicion, and on further investigation, confirms the fact that he is the killer, and immediately the queen commits suicide, and Oedipus blinds himself.
From the story of the tragedy we come to know about both the qualities and faults of Oedipus. Oedipus is a man of extraordinary stature. He solved the riddle of the Sphinx, and saved Thebes from a great scourge. As a young man he killed King Laius and all his men single-handed. As a king he is a great well-wisher ofhis people, and efficient ruler. He is a religious man and believes in oracles, respects the bonds of family, and hates impurity.
But he has his faults as well. He is hot-tempered, hasty in his judgement, very proud of his power and intellect, and arbitrary in his decisions. He quickly loses his temper with Teiresias, and jumps to the conclusion that Teiresias has been bribed by Creon and they have hatched a conspiracy against him to dethrone him. His dealings with Creon show his arbitrariness and his dictatorial tendency. All these faults are owning to his feeling of pride or hubris. And it is acknowledged through centuries that pride must have a fall. It was pride that entangled him in the fight with Laius, which fight led to the murder of Laius, and the fulfilment of all the prophecies of the Deiphian oracle. It might be argued that had he been more temperate, less rash, and less drastic,. things might have turned otherwise.
We might justifiably argue that Oedipus is a tragic character who possesses the qualities as well as the faults of a tragic hero and his downfall is due to his hubris, a form of hamartia. –