Oedipus Rex has long been included in the library which all students in the West must read, at some point, to understand the foundations of literature and the roots of Western Civilization. It embodies much of what scholars consider the crucial elements of classical tragedy, and forces its readers or audience to deeply consider the literary fabric of whatmakes tragic protagonist. In it, Oedipus must face his tragic flaw, eventually come to a terrible realization, and become forever immortalized in Western Literature. This paper aims to discuss the basic element of classical plot and discuss Oedipus’ role as a tragic protagonist, the character at the center of Greek tragedy.
Aristotle distinguished plot as one of the most important elementscritical to distinguish a classic tragedy. Oedipus is a tragedy in classical style plot with exposition, rising action, and climax. Its plot takes the path of tragedy as Oedipus’ fate reverses so he must recognize the horrible truth, and finally experiences great suffering. The plot starts with the exposition of the dramatic conflict which is when no one wants to render any information to Oedipus aboutLaius’s murderer and he struggles to get Teiresias the messenger and the shepherd to talk when he desperately wanted to solve the mystery but he keeps being urged to drop it. The plot then follows with the rising action. The climax then brings a turning point, or reversal, at the high point of action when Oedipus realizes he has slept with his mother and killed his father. In this moment ofhorror is when he understands what he has done which makes this part of the play the psychological and emotional climax of the play. The falling action then occurs and the tragedy ends with the catastrophe.
The plot of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex follows the general model of tragedy set forth by Aristotle, telling the tale of good fortune changing to bad, as a character of highborn origin, good nature, andenviable prosperity falls into calamitous ends. Oedipus came from a noble family, was very wealthy, had children, and was looked up to by many people. He was renowned for his intelligence and his capacity to solve riddles, by which he became king of Thebes after solving the riddle of the Sphinx, a supernatural being that had held the city captive. However, Oedipus’ fortune takes a terrible turnat the end of the play. His story ends in catastrophe as his character has to be enlightened with new knowledge of the truth about the horrid prophecies that prescribed his own horrid acts. Furthermore, he realizes his own flaw and confronts his wrongdoings so deeply that he decides to punish himself. While the audience watches Oedipus’ fall from prosperity alongside the revelation of his trueidentity and the fact that no one could really side step his or her destiny. Indeed, the importance of plot in classical tragedy was tied into theater’s role in ancient Greek society. Theater was not something that was created merely for entertainment purposes, but instead strategically promoted the cultural values, and more specifically, the religious beliefs that ruled Greek life. One of thesebeliefs was that the destiny of each individual was decided upon by the fates, which decided the good or evil attributes of a person’s nature, what will happen in his or her lifetime, and when that lifetime will come to an end. This was something to be considered while watching Oedipus vainly try to disregard the increasingly obvious truth.
Classical tragedies spotlight the catastrophic and patheticfall of a tragic protagonist, the traits of which can easily be applied to King Oedipus. Such an individual is neither a villain, nor model of perfection. Essentially, a tragic protagonist possesses decency and acts out of good intentions – a good, but not perfect person, who falls from prosperity to misfortune through his own tragic flaw or harmatia. Indeed, Oedipus has a fatal flaw, his pride,...