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Activity Overview

Oedipus the King is full of common literary elements that are important for students to explore. One of the more important elements is that of the tragic hero. This is a protagonist who is typically of noble birth and seems to be ill-fated and destined for doom. In this play, it is clear that Oedipus fits this description, as he is lead to his tragic ending.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, first articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. In fact, he said Oedipus the King was the perfect example of a tragedy. For the storyboard above, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Oedipus, a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Oedipus - Tragic Hero

HamartiaHero's Flaw that Causes Downfall Oedipus’ ignorance of his parenthood, combined with his anger, pride, and determination leads him to discover the horror of his past actions.
HubrisExcessive Pride He believed that could defy prophecy and Tiresias’s warnings.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune When the messenger arrives from Corinth, he tries to relieve Oedipus by telling he was adopted. This is the point where Oedipus begins to unravel the tale of his life.
AnagnorisisMoment of Critical Discovery As the play draws to a close, Oedipus realizes the terrible truth. Despite all his efforts - because of them, in fact - he has killed his father and married his mother. The prophecy he and his father had tried to avoid has come true.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided Oedipus’s fate is prophesied as a newborn, he tries to escape it, but by his actions works against his own interests.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall The audience see Oedipus, a flawed but still great man, brought low by fate. They pity his tragic circumstances and feel fear that their own hubris or anger could lead to catastrophe.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: Tragic Hero

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/9-10/1] Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Oedipus can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Oedipus that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Oedipus as a tragic hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Oedipus the King / Oedipus Rex

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