The Tragic Hero We are learning: to describe the conventions of tragedy to apply the tragic conventions to Oedipus the King



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The Tragic Hero We are learning: - to describe the conventions of tragedy - to apply the tragic conventions to Oedipus the King

  • Oedipus the King

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Aristotelian Tragedy in Oedipus the King

  • ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC)
  • Philosopher and academic, wrote prolifically
  • He was writing at least three generations after Sophocles’ plays were seen. Certainly he had access to the text, but Sophocles did NOT follow Aristotle’s theory of tragedy.

Aristotle’s Guide to a Terrific Tragedy

  • According to Aristotle a good tragedy, like a good cake, must have the following ingredients to be successful:
  • The tragic ending is inevitable
  • The tragic character has a tragic flaw (hamartia) which leads to his/her downfall
  • The tragic character is of high status, so that his/her fall has great impact
  • Identify the tragic character in Oedipus the King and explain how the play is or is not a “good” tragedy according to these ideas.
  • SIMPLE VERSION

Conventions of Greek Tragedy – Technical Terms

  • Greek Term
  • hamartia
  • Ignorance of a particular fact or set of facts. In later criticism, this was interpreted as a “tragic flaw”
  • pathos
  • hamartia + actions; tragic acts destructive to life or painful, must be combined with hamartia
  • peripeteia
  • a reversal of action/intent; where someone or something happens where the actual effect is different from the stated or intended effect
  • anagnorisis
  • recognition (of ignorance); the doer of pathos recognises that he/she has been ignorant (suffering from hamartia)
  • catharsis
  • Purification, involving regret, contrition or considerable suffering. Meaning of this word has changed over time. People use it now to mean a sense of emotional outpouring and feeling better after doing so.

Aristotelian Tragedy in Oedipus Rex

  • Greek Term
  • Brief Explanation
  • Oedipus the King examples
  • hamartia
  • ignorance
  • tragic acts
  • peripeteia
  • recognition (of ignorance)
  • catharsis
  • Draw up this table and complete

Aristotelian Tragedy in Oedipus the King

  • Greek Term
  • English Explanation
  • Oedipus the King examples
  • hamartia
  • ignorance
  • Oedipus does not know that the person he killed at the crossroads was the King of Thebes, Laius
  • Oedipus does not know that Laius was his father
  • Oedipus does not know that Jocasta is his mother
  • Oedipus does not know that Polybus and Meropé are not his natural parents
  • pathos
  • tragic acts
  • Oedipus kills Laius
  • Oedipus sleeps with Jocasta and produces 4 children, Antigone, Ismene, Polynices and Eteocles
  • peripeteia
  • a reversal of action/intent
  • The messenger tells Oedipus that he is to be King of Corinth – good news; but he ends up revealing that Polybus and Meropé were not the parents of Oedipus
  • The shepherd is summoned to give evidence about the death of Laius; he ends up revealing that Oedipus was the baby whom he rescued from and gave to the messenger
  • anagnorisis
  • recognition (of ignorance)
  • Oedipus finally makes the connection that the man he killed at the crossroads was his own father Laius, and that the woman he has married and slept with (Jocasta) is his own mother.
  • catharsis
  • purification
  • Oedipus acknowledges to the chorus and audience that he is a hated and revolting creature.
  • He blinds himself – vigorously and violently…it’s not just the blinding, but how it’s done
  • He is resigned to his fate and urges Creon to banish him, thus purifying the city of Thebes.

Dramatic Irony

  • is a situation in a play or film which is understood by the audience, but not by all the characters.
  • Explain – what does this mean for Oedipus the King?

Dramatic Irony

  • How does Oedipus control the action in Oedipus the King?
  • Vows to correct the problems
  • Makes the punishment
  • Tries to get information from 5 different sources – what are they and what are the results of each?
  • Postpones the moment of revelation till the very end, after the information has been presented.
  • The suspense is maintained for Oedipus only. The audience knows the answers from the start. Jocasta also realises much earlier than Oedipus. She puts off the inevitable and stalls.


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