12 Feb 2019

MA English Part.1 Paper Drama Oedipus Rex a Tragic Hero-his Hamartia


 Oedipus falls on the Aristotle's criteria of tragic hero,(i) high social standing , (ii) moral excellence or goodness, and (iii) some fault of character , or some error committed by the hero in ignorance of the circumstances, Oedipus answer to all these requirements, though so far as the last mentioned requirement is concerned , the matter has to be considered carefully . 

Oedipus is a man of royal birth ; he is brought up by a King and Queen and he himself afterwards becomes a King and marries a Queen . He is thus a man of social eminence. He is also a man possessing excellent qualities of character, though he is no means perfect. 

At the same time, it would not be correct to say that he is a puppet in the hands of fate .Within certain limits he is a 
free agent.

Oedipus as a man of excellent qualities:
Oedipus is a noble, just and a kind king, a great well-wisher of his people, a man of integrity , an honest and administrator, and an outstanding intellect . He is also a pious man who believes in oracles, respects the bonds of family and hates impurity. 

His belief in the prophecies of the gods is the very basis of the whole play; it is because he receives a message from the Delphic oracle that he undertakes an investigation into the murder of the late King Laius. Oedipus is highly respected by his people.

The suppliant people approach him almost as a god and he is honoured as a savior. The Priest recalls the valuable service that he rendered to the city of Thebes by conquering the Sphinx, and looks forward to his rescuing the people from the afflictions that have now descended upon the city .Oedipus responds to the appeal of the Priest whole heartedly: in fact he has already dispatched Creon to consult the Delphic oracle, and soon he summons the prophet Tiresias to seek his guidance. 

When Creon reveals the cause of the city's sufferings and the remedy communicated to him by the oracle,
Oedipus declares his resolve to track down the criminal and he utters a terrible curse upon him.
In the light of all this we can say that Oedipus is almost an ideal King. He also shows himself as a devoted husband and as a loving father. 

He shows his consideration for the opinions and feelings of Jocasta and he lavishes all his affection on his daughters. His relations with the Chorus are also very cordial and he shows all due courtesy to him them.

Faults in Oedipus Characters:
‏‏Many readers believe that according to Aristotle the hamartia of Oedipus consists in some moral fault , and they have even tried in Oedipus to identify various moral faults, Oedipus is not a god. 

He is human being and as a human being there are certain lapses in the character. He is hot-tempered, hasty in his judgment, excessively proud of his temper with Teiresias when he finds the prophet reluctant to reveal the things that he knows. This attitude of distrust towards the prophet is in sharp contrast to Oedipus ' genuine piety. 

His piety fails also later on when under the influence of Jocasta, he becomes somewhat skeptical regarding the oracles.

Oedipus smells conspiracy in Creon and Teiresias behavior. He hastily announces death for Creon. He Shows great insult to Teiresias . It seems his authority blinds his eyes and he cannot distinguish good and bad. In the case of Creon he is about to commit a judicial murder.

His hubris or pride:
He feels pride on his wisdom. This feeling of pride seems to have been considerably nourished and inflated by his success in solving the riddle of the Sphinx. Because of this hubris, or insolence, he becomes disgusting. His attitude of intolerance towards both Teiresias and Creon creates in us the impression that he is paving the way for his own downfall. He has already committed the crimes which make him a sinner in the eyes of the gods, in his own eyes , and in the eyes of other people: he killed his father and married his mother long before his defects come to our notice .
If the crimes had remained unknown there would 
hardly have been any tragedy. Tragedy comes with the fact of discovery both for Jocasta and himself.

His downfall is not attributed to his sins:
Oedipus does not suffer because of his sins. His pride is not the direct cause of his crimes or his tragedy. Having come to know from the oracle what was in store for him, he tried his utmost to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecies. It was completely in a state of ignorance that he killed his father and married his mother. 

His tragedy is a tragedy of error, not any willful action. And yet it is possible to argue that, if he had been a little, more careful, things would have taken a different shape. 

He might have avoided the quarrel on the road if he had not been so proud or hot-tempered; and he might have refused to marry a woman old enough to be his mother if he had not been blinded by the pride of his intelligence in solving the riddle of the Sphinx.

The motivating force behind the discovery
Does pride have anything to do with the discovery of his crimes? We can be almost certain that, if Oedipus had not relentlessly pursued his investigation, he might have been spared the shock of discovery. Something in him drives him forward on the road to discovery. 

After Teiresias has first refused to tell him anything and then uttered some frightening prophecies, Oedipus is discouraged 'by  jocasta to continue his investigations. But he pays no heed to her philosophy of living at random. 

She makes another effort to stop his investigations when she has herself realized the truth, but again she fails. The Theban shepherd too tries to dampen Oedipus determination to know the truth but in vain it is this insistence on the truth that leads to the discovery in which lies the tragedy. 

We may, if we like interpret this insistence on the truth as a form of pride. The link of cause and effect is unmistakable between Oedipus' pride of intellect and Oedipus
 Pride of intellect and Oedipus' discovery of his sins. What causes the tragedy is Oedipus 'own loyalty to 
the truth.

Oedipus and Aristotelian Standard of Tragic Hero:
 The accepted critical viewpoint nowadays is that Aristotle does not mean hamartia in the sense of some moral fault which deserves punishment. It is highly probable that Aristotle uses the word only in the sense of "an offence committed in ignorance of some material fact and therefore free from wickedness or vice". 

Oedipus is thus an authentic tragic hero in the Aristotelian sense because among other things, his tragedy is as much due to his own initiatives in discovering the truth as to external circumstances. Oedipus is an authentic tragic hero even from the modern reader's points of view. 

In Oedipus we see the helplessness of man's essential greatness. The manner in which Oedipus blinds himself after realizing his guilt and the manner, in which he endures his punishment, raise him high in our esteem.


  1. outstanding notes. thanks dear sir

  2. Is it necessary to write headlines in papaer?

  3. Thanks sir Allaah pak apko khush rajhy