Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Play

Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Play

The aim of tragedy is to evoke fear and pity, according to Aristotle, who cited the Oedipus Tyrannus as the definitive tragic play. Thus pity must be produced from the play at some point. However, this does not necessarily mean that Oedipus must be pitied. We feel great sympathy ('pathos') for Jocasta's suicide and the fate of Oedipus' daughters. Oedipus could evoke fear in us, not pity. He is a King of an accursed city willing to use desperate methods, even torture to extract truth from the Shepherd. His scorning of Jocasta just before her death creates little pity for him, as does his rebuke of the old, blind Tiresias. But with this considered, we must not forget the suffering he endures during his search for knowledge and the ignorant self-destruction he goes under.
Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother, with whom he produces four children. These are terrible crimes, impious, immoral and illegal. However, the fact that he carries these out in ignorance, not conscious of his own actions, attributes them to his fate.
Sophocles translates his philosophy of life, of there being a harmony in the workings out of the universal order of things, into a harmony in Oedipus Rex. In the play, Oedipus, for instance, is a free agent with, however, certain limits upon his freedom of action as determined by the will of the gods; a transgression by Oedipus would lead to intervention by the gods since justice must prevail as is evident by the admission of chorus in the play

("But all eyes fail before time's eye, / All actions come to justice there.").

This view of a just universal order is maintained, in the play, by Sophocles through a careful and effective blending of sympathy and censure in his play Oedipus Rex which ultimately results in a moving tragedy.

Oedipus is not presented by Sophocles as a mere puppet. It is precisely his own search for the truth about his identity that eventually leads to his downfall; Oedipus' stubborn attitude even calls...

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