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The primary goal of this paper is to compose an essay on Oedipus the King in relation to Aristotle’s poetics. In Greek history, Aristotle was one of the greatest thinkers the Greeks had ever seen. He was born in Stagira in 384 BC and died in Chalcis in 322 BC (Aristotle 2). His companion was a lady called Pythias. There is very little information available about her. Finally, Aristotle was a Platonic Academy scholar (Aristotle 3). Aristotle was also a well-known poet and novelist, authoring many books including Metaphysics, Politics, and On the Spirit. Oedipus the King is a playwright that was written and premiered in the Year 429 BC (Griffith 5). Some of the main characters that are associated with this book are Oedipus, Tiresias, Creonte, the Priest, Second Messenger and Jocasta. The main setting for this play is in Thebes. Oedipus the King is one of the best books written by Sophocles. In relation to Aristotle’s poetics, we are able to understand that King Oedipus was the King of Thebes (Griffith 10). He had a brother – in – law known as Creon. Briefly, when we look at the Summary of the book there was a tragedy in the area. There was plague that had struck the City. Basically; the main reason for the plague was due to the killing of King Laius (Griffith 18).

According to Creon, the only way that the plague would have been lifted is if the man who had killed King Laius was brought to justice (Adade & Asuamah & Kwaku & Adwoah & Amankwah 23). There is a lot of confusion when we see the Queen, Jocasta claiming that King Oedipus is responsible for the death of the former King. When we look at Aristotle’s poetics his definition about the term tragedy is very different. According to most of his poetics; a tragedy refers to any life imitation which has to be realistic or relate to story that is serious in the real life form. Aristotle also says that a real life tragedy ought to evoke some form of fear and pity (Aristotle 39). The tragedy should make the viewers or the people reading the story experience or have a catharsis feeling. In reference to the Greek dictionary the term catharsis refers to purification or purgation of emotions such as fear and pity through art.

In reference to Oedipus the King; according to Aristotle’s poetics, the Plague outbreak fulfilled the real meaning of what a plague is. As a result of the plague, very many people were killed (Golden 40). Generally, this tragedy led to the death of very many people. Some of the few people who were lucky and did not get affected by the plague were affected emotionally and psychologically. The trauma of seeing their friends suffer in pain from the plague was enough to create a sense of pity as well as fear. According Aristotle, the second instance where tragedy occurs and relates to the real life situation is when Oedipus kills his father unknowingly and marries his own mother (Aristotle 27). This is a big tragedy. When we look at the real life situation, in case an individual marries their own mother or kills their father this is a big tragedy.

Thirdly in reference to Aristotle’s poetics; tragedy is also brought to life when we see Queen Jocasta abandoning her duties as a sensitive and good mother by leaving the baby on the edge of the road (King Oedipus) (Adade & Asuamah & Kwaku & Adwoah & Amankwah 41). This is a real life tragedy, in case the baby was not saved by good – hearted people his life would have come to an end. Lastly, based on Aristotle’s definition of what a tragedy is, the death of Jocasta can be said to be a big tragedy. As soon as the Oracle’s words are fulfilled; when King Oedipus finds out that he killed his own father, the former King and married his own mother, Queen Jocasta goes out to hang herself (Griffith 30). She could not bear the shame and hatred she would receive after everything had come out in the light.

Aristotle’s Poetics also focus on what is known as dramatic irony. Dramatic irony refers to a technique that is used by most of the Greek writers (Haas 19). In this case, the whole significance of the story is well known to the audience while the Character’s involved do not know their fate. Basically, in a lay man’s language it is quite safe to state the fact that the character in the story does not know what is going to happen to them. When we look Aristotle and his application of dramatic irony in King Oedipus, the readers in already know that King Oedipus is making a mistake by marrying his own mother (Griffith 43). The audience also knows that Oedipus is fathering children that are as a result of incest. They also know that Queen Jocasta will end up killing herself. In relation to the above scenario, it is quite safe to state the fact that the character in the book cannon be able to change the fate or concept of the myth or what is going to come along.

When we look a tragic hero; different scholars have different meanings. Based on the urban dictionary, a tragic hero is a person or character who ends up making an error due to his poor leadership skills (Haas 19). Consequently, as a result of this poor skills, he or she faces their own destruction. According to Aristotle’s Poetics; when we look at the definition of an ideal tragic hero, he or she must be better than the average man. In this case, they must be well developed with skills, abilities and talent that supersedes that of the average man. According to Aristotle, King Oedipus is superior because of social stranding (Griffith 54). He is also superior when compared to every other person because he was able to solve the Sphinx’s riddle. When we look at the land of Thebes no one was able to solve the riddle, all of the Country’s most respected people such as the Witch doctors and Wizards were unable to solve it.

In relation to King Oedipus’ Poetics a tragic hero should also be better than the average person however at some point he must evoke a sense or feeling of fear or pity. Aristotle also quotes that a tragic leader should be able to portray a mixture of evil and good (Aristotle 40). A tragic leader is also unwise sometimes. In reference to character analysis, King Oedipus is an individual who is very far from being perfect. When we look at the book, we get to see that Oedipus refuses to heed the words of the oracle. He stubbornly refuses to reason with Tiresias’s warnings. In summary, it is safe to state the fact that he is s blinded by the truth. Despite the fact that he can make a good father, Oedipus comes to a tragic end when he bears children through incest.


In conclusion, it is safe to state the fact that Aristotle’s poetics in reference to King Oedipus clearly bring out the real meaning of what a tragic hero and tragedy is. Based on the information above, it is safe to state the fact that a tragic hero is a person who comes to an untimely ending due to his mistakes. Based on the book King Oedipus, the King comes to an untimely ending after he discovers that he killed his father; the former King, Laius. He also comes down to tears after he discovers he married his own mother who gave birth to children who are a product of incest. Lastly, Aristotle’s ideas on the characteristics of a tragic leader reveal when see that Oedipus is not normal like the others, he is much wiser and secondly his poor decisions and ignorance lead to his downfall.

Works Cited

Adade-Yeboah, Asuamah, Kwaku Ahenkora, and Adwoah S. Amankwah. “The Tragic Hero of the Classical Period.” (2016).

Aristotle, Horace, et al. “2 Aristotle and tragedy.” Literary Criticism and Theory: From Plato to Postcolonialism (2014): 25.

Golden, Leon. Aristotle and the Arc of Tragedy. Radius Book Group, 2017.

Griffith, Mark, et al., eds. Sophocles I: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Haas, Andrew. “On Aristotle’s concept of improvisation.” Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology 2.1 (2015): 113-121.

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