Guide to Literary Terms

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Hubris

Hubris - arrogance, excessive self-pride and self-confidence. The word was used to refer to the emotions in Greek tragic heroes that led them to ignore warnings from the gods and thus invite catastrophe. It is considered a form of hamartia or tragic flaw that stems from overbearing pride and lack of piety.

The word is taken directly from the Greek hubris, meaning “insolence or pride.”

The concept was used by Sophocles in his The Oedipus Trilogy. In this cycle of plays, Apollo, the God of Truth, warns King Laius of Thebes that he will be killed by his child. When Oedipus is born, his father exiles him but the child returns as an adult and kills Laius, not recognizing him as his father. King Laius invited catastrophe by attempting to circumvent Apollo’s prophecy. The King’s actions revealed his hubris because he, a mortal, thought he knew more than Apollo, a god.