Characteristics of a Tragic Hero


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  • Hamartia means a tragic flaw or some weakness of a character's personality. Oedipus's hamartia is his excessive pride and arrogance, also known as hubris. Oedipus' hubris is influenced by his success in defeating a sphinx and becoming the King of Thebes. Due to his hubris, Oedipus learns the terrible truth of his identity, and loses everything good in his life; his wife, mother, children, and position on the throne.
  • Hamartia:
  • Relation to Others:
  • Oedipus' relation to others is the epitome of a tragic hero. Oedipus is born to Jocasta and Laius, King and Queen of Thebes. His parents soon learn of his tragic prophecy, that he will murder his father and marry his mother. The couple abandons the newborn and the child is brought to Polybus and Merope, King and Queen of Corinth, who never learn of their adopted son's prophecy. As Oedipus grows he is told his prophecy, so he flees Corinth and ends up in Thebes. Along the journey, Oedipus crosses path with King Laius and murders him. When he arrived in Thebes, Oedipus defeats the Sphinx that has controlled the city, and marries Jocasta. Both of these events happen while Oedipus is unaware of the identity of his birth parents. Oedipus tries to avoid his prophecy by saving those who he believes to be his parents, but nothing he does will prevent him from fulfilling his prophecy.
  • Personality Traits:
  • Despite Oedipus' stubborn, arrogant and prideful tendencies, his personality is not always negative. Oedipus is also a generous king who will do anything for his people. Furthermore, this trait also plays into Oedipus' role as a tragic hero. Oedipus' top priority is to find the identity of Laius' killer. With the help of being hard-headed, this task is quite simple. Sadly due to Oedipus' ignorance, he is unable to recognize that searching for the truth will only bring devastation. When Oedipus learns that he is the one who murdered Laius, meaning that he fulfilled his prophecy, he feels obligated to stab himself in the eyes and exile himself from Thebes in order to rid the city of its plague.
  • - "Tell me, and never doubt that I will help you In every way I can; I should be heartless Were I not moved to find you suppliant here." (Sophocles, page 4). This quote shows how Oedipus will do anything to save his kingdom, which will include exiling himself in the future. - "By exile or death, blood for blood. It was Murder that brought the plague-wind on the city." (Sophocles, page 7). In this quote, Creon is telling Oedipus what must be done to Laius' murderer in order to save the kingdom. This information foreshadows the punishment that Oedipus will have to endure. This quote and the quote before show that despite any good deeds from Oedipus, he will still face tragedy. - "How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be When there's no help in truth! I knew this well, But made myself forget. I should not have come." (Sophocles, page 17). This quote relates to a tragic hero, because it shows that though Oedipus thinks he wants to know the truth, he will be devastated when it is revealed to him.
  • Important Quotes:
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