In Oedipus Rex, is Oedipus brought down by arrogance or pride?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Aristotle's view of tragedy in his Poetics, a work which has dominated critical thinking since it was written, the protagonist's misfortunes result not from character deficiencies but from what Aristotle terms hamartia, a criminal act committed in ignorance of some material fact or even for the sake of a greater good.  The criminal act that Oedipus commits is the killing of the man who blocks his way on a road, a man who, unbeknowst to Oedipus, is his father.  This act may be motivated by arrogance as Oedipus desires to show his superiority to the other man; however, his downfall is the result of hamartia, and neither pride nor arrogance. 

This arrogance of Oedipus is evident in his thinking that he can solve the riddle of what causes the plague from which Thebes suffers.  But, at the same time, Oedipus is a good king and a sound ruler who feels confident in his problem-solving abilities since he already has solved the riddle of the Sphinx.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team