Discuss how Aristotle would view Oedipus in terms of a tragic hero.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that if we were examining Aristotelian definitions of tragedy and the tragic hero, Oedipus would certainly meet such a criteria.  Aristotle demands that there is a certain evolution in character in the tragic hero.  The hero must have understood his own tragic flaw and recognized how change must be evident.  Oedipus meets this in that he understands his own hubris at the end of the play, speaks to this in blinding himself, and asks for mercy for his children.  In this, Oedipus meets one component of the Aristotle standard.  The idea that tragedy must be predicated upon a certain "pleasure" is also evident in that there is a sad beauty evident in Oedipus' tragedy.  There is a level of beauty that is apparent in how Oedipus recognizes that he must ultimately pay for the condition that surrounds him, his kingdom, and his family.  Oedipus assumes responsibility when a lesser man might have fled from it.  He understands that the establishment of a moral order and legacy can only start with him recognizing the unholiness of his own life and in this, there is a certain "pleasure" derived in seeing how a human being can strive to represent something more transcendent.  I think that Aristotle would support this and recognize it as representative of what tragedy can do as an art form in the minds of human beings.

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