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Philosophy Essay

4531 words - 19 pages

Hamartia in Oedipus the King

According to the Aristotelian characteristics of good tragedy, the tragic character should not fall due to either excessive virtue or excessive wickedness, but due to what Aristotle called hamartia. Hamartia may be interpreted as either a flaw in character or an error in judgement. Oedipus, the tragic character in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, certainly makes several such mistakes; however, the pervasive pattern of his judgemental errors seems to indicate a basic character flaw that precipitates them.

Oedipus’ character flaw is ego. This is made evident in the opening lines of the prologue when he states "Here I am myself--you all know me, the world knows ...view middle of the document...

Oedipus’ cruelty indeed literally squeezes his own demise out of the shepherd: "You’re a dead man if I have to ask again . . . I’m at the edge of hearing horrors, yes, but I must hear!" (ll. 1281, 1285)

After his recognition and reversal, Oedipus exclaims "The hand that struck my eyes was mine, . . . I did it all myself!" (ll. 1469, 1471) He is not only referring to his self-inflicted mayhem, but also the chain of events that led to his demise. Creon later comments that "it’s better to ask precisely what to do." (l. 1578) In contrast to this observation, apparently this is precisely what Oedipus should have done.

Each of these events, when isolated, may be excused as a simple mistake. However, when viewed as a whole, a pattern emerges among these mistakes. The cumulative effect is indicative of an underlying character flaw. Oedipus’ hamartia may most directly be his mistakes, but ultimately these mistakes flow from his ego. For Oedipus, hamartia certainly refers to a flaw.

The Role of Hamartia in Oedipus the King - The Role of Hamartia in Oedipus the King Literary tragedy has roots that extend two and a half millennia into the past, but throughout this history the genre's defining characteristics have remained the same. At the very core of tragedy lies an uncertainty over the cause of the tragic predicament. The leading candidate for an explanation of this cause often comes under the name of hamartia, a Greek word that translates into "a defect in character", "an error" or "a mistake." However, the most common conception (or misconception) of this notion is that it involves "a moral or intellectual weakness," a view that often leads scholars to regard hamartia as the answer to questions of tragic flaw....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
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(4.8 pages) $29.95 [preview] Free Oedipus the King Essays: Hamartia in Oedipus Rex - Hamartia in Oedipus the King According to the Aristotelian characteristics of good tragedy, the tragic character should not fall due to either excessive virtue or excessive wickedness, but due to what Aristotle called hamartia. Hamartia may be interpreted as either a flaw in character or an error in judgement. Oedipus, the tragic character in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, certainly makes several such mistakes; however, the pervasive pattern of his judgemental errors seems to indicate a basic character flaw that precipitates them....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex] 483 words
(1.4 pages) FREE Essays [view] Hamartia in Oedipus the King - Hamartia in Oedipus the King According to Aristotle, the tragic hero is impeded by a distinguishable characteristic or character trait which leads to his ultimate demise. This trait is known as hamartia, or the "tragic flaw." This characteristic is said to not only lead to the hero's demise but may also enable the reader to sympathize with the character. So it follows that in Oedipus the King, a Greek tragedy, the tragic hero Oedipus should...

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