HAMARTIA in OEDIPUS THE KING

:
Conventions of a Classical tragedy
By: Karissa May Cortez

Why does a man suffer? Why does he fall from the pinnacle of success into the pit of disaster? As a human being.In what Aristotle perceived as a perfect tragedy is when “the protagonist will mistakenly bring about his own downfall—not because he is sinful or morally weak. not of vice. this change “should come about as the result. we cannot grasp the reality that all of us are flawed. Furthermore. of which some might have discussed before others I think have not. correlating in on what he considered as the greatest tragedy ever written. a tragic hero as Aristotle would imply is “a morally good but not perfect hero who is brought from happiness to unhappiness because of a mistaken act. whom we considered King Oedipus of Thebes while he lives. And yet “the role of the hamartia in tragedy comes not from its moral status but from the inevitability of its consequences” (Aristotle VIII). Sophocles’ presented unto us the greatest tragedy of all classical . Nonetheless. concerning the valid truth that we are all shape and mold in imperfection. but of some great error or frailty in a character” (Aristotle VIII). Because. what is a tragic hero? Using Oedipus as an ideal model. so his change of fortune is unexpected. to which he or she is led by a hamartia. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. is what dies inside a man. Additionally. but because he does not know enough”(Aristotle VIII). The meaning of the Greek word is closer to “mistake” than to “flaw” (Aristotle VIII). In the Play Oedipus the King. propose to deal with some difficulties and uncertainties in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. I hereby. the accurate classical tragedy of life. For the reason that. we can and we might even cause our own downfall. Every human individual has its own flaw. an error in judgment”( Aristotle VII). I think we are prone to our own mistakes. All humans will commit tremendous wrongdoings and fatally. that he was an innocent victim of the gods. I propose to refute that ignorance. he further expanded it by defining the profile of the Classical Greek tragic hero. It is tragic is it? In his works “The Poetics. Yet. in his works Sophocles defined Oedipus as a tragic hero due to his flaws. even though some critics may argue that Oedipus had no tragic flaw. Oedipus as a protagonist is renowned and prosperous.” Aristotle discusses the concept of “hamartia” often translated as “tragic flaw”.Page1 In this paper. From this definition.

It is plausible that these qualities can also lead to his demise. his persistence in knowing the truth. he commits mistakes and has his own flaws and that what makes his story a tragedy. I hereby disagree and disclaim this proclamation. his loyalty to Thebes. his pride and his selfishness. As Oedipus is. However. “Oedipus and Job. Therefore. because there’s no evidence in the text at all concerning that Oedipus must discover the truth. whereas. However. The immediate cause of Oedipus destruction is neither gods nor fates. and his flaws are the basis and the cause of his own obliteration. . I cannot understand Meyer’s idea that gods had played Oedipus like child and force himself the knowledge of his horrendous crime. What causes his ruin is his strength in courage. Nonetheless.” Meyer Fortes discusses the aspect that Oedipus doesn’t bear any flaws at all by saying. it was appalling fate and not his own choosing that made him suffer” (Fortes 50). through these. he has shown us his weaknesses and his faults. we can also conclude that Oedipus is doomed in damnation since birth. The question is often asked: Is it fate or is it Oedipus’ flaws that contributed to his downfall? The thought of what Oedipus accomplishes. Hence. Moreover. like any human. I was convinced that the play Oedipus the King by Sophocles is evidently indicating the proposal that Oedipus had tragic flaws. love for his people and his desire for knowledge. In his essay. he demonstrates his heroism on his ability to acquire higher traits of intelligence that proves his authority by committing great deal of courage. We can all conclude that Oedipus is a great king and is the quintessence of the perfect Theban.Page 2 literature. we can perceive that he is not evil. compassion and knowledge. He is essentially a good individual. plagued to kill his father and marry his mother in which he had committed unwittingly and unknowingly. commits and saves is his own nature. his ignorance. it is neither fate nor the gods that are responsible for his immediate ruin but himself. might. honorable and determined. Although Oedipus vigorously tragic tale appears that he seems flawless that his actions were justified and he’s a puppet of the gods. intellectual. He is poised. “Oedipus is the victim of destiny. I firmly believe that Oedipus is flawed.

“The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths” (James 43). He accused Teresias as the murderer without even thinking. misfortune should fall on an eminent man not because he is vicious but because there is something wrong about him. In the end we can all identify that Oedipus encompass tragic flaws or hamartia that lead to his ruin. Hence. Besides. as the play progresses. “Know thy self” and “Nothing too much. other characteristics appear and further add to the problem to such a point that it is inevitable he will further meet his catastrophic end. an error. Hence. Unfortunately. It is evident that Oedipus is ignorant whereas he does not acknowledge the suffering that his people are experiencing. . It is in clear understanding that through his ignorance Oedipus become impulsive in his decisions and becoming more and more judgmental. the widely popular piece of advice from William James directly applies to Oedipus. he is incapable of following such advice. “I know that you are deathly sick. and yet. sick as you are. I What has man done to deserve such doom? What is Oedipus hamartia? Oedipus has a lot of flaws to begin with. sometimes to purely intellectual error” (Aristotle XIV). An example of Oedipus flaws is his ignorance. “Oedipus trusts his intellect too much and must learn how fullible it is” (Winnington 53). Likewise. not one is sick as I” (Prologue Line 62). Oedipus error lies in his ignorance of “material facts and circumstances” (Aristotle XIII). As Winnington affirmed. Aristotle illustrated that the word “hamartia is ambiguous in ordinary usage it is sometimes applied to false moral judgments. In his work. Therefore. hamartia” (Aristotle XIII). Even though the validity of the plague and the solving of the riddle of the Sphinx is particular instance brought up Oedipus heroism. but rather a result of the characteristics that Oedipus himself possessed. An instance is when Oedipus is speaking to his people who are experiencing the plague that has overcome the city of Thebes he says to his people. for Oedipus. Oedipus’ tragic end is not a result of a plot by the fates.Page 3 Aristotle stated in The Poetics 13 “in tragedy.” Martin Kallich argued that “the philosophical theme of Sophocles’ play is mild agnosticism or neutral fatalism” (Kallich 33).

his lack of knowledge on the circumstances and the consequences that he himself is encountering. He says. subsequently. Teresias gave in and told Oedipus the truth but Oedipus does not want to believe the truth. “I say that you are the murderer whom you seek” (Scene I line 347). ignorance is to be blame” (Bowra 82). in scenes where Teresias refused to tell Oedipus the truth about King Laois death. Now it is my misery. I’d say the crime was yours.Page 4 Bowra acknowledged and supported the thought that “Sophocles allows no doubts. While Teresias fully knows the truth of Oedipus cursed origin. Why persist in asking? You will not persuade me” (Scene I line 320) and “I have gone free. II A second substantial instance of Oedipus flaws Oedipus’ inability to see the truth and his persistence on knowing the forbidden truths about his destiny. he says. As their discussion turns into an argument. As Oedipus begins to unravel his weakness. Oedipus passion for the truth and his goal for wisdom becomes his vanity that he refused to believe anyone who is against him. no criticism of the gods…. it is the truth that sustains me” (Scene I line 340). At the beginning of the play. he knows that he must not reveal his identity. Oedipus even accused Teresias as the murderer. It’s unambiguous that Oedipus failures lie in his false judgment. and yours alone” (Scene I line 331). Oedipus begins to insult the prophet. you had it done. I will never tell you what I know. he is persistent in knowing everything.If divine ways seem wrong. “You planned it. or you. and you all but killed him with your own hands: if you had eyes. “What a wicked old man you are! You’d try a stone’s patience! Out with it! Have you no feeling at all? (Scene I line 321) Oedipus admits that Teresias is blind and mocks the prophet for his blindness. Teresias know deeply that it is terrible to see the truth when the truth is only pain to Oedipus. However Oedipus also knows that the prophet can help overcome the plague brought on by Apollo. “You are all ignorant. The only problem is Teresias refusal to help in which Teresias then responds to Oedipus. Teresias is deeply concerned for Oedipus but he cannot go against Oedipus temperamental actions: “I do not intend to torture myself. He says. then it would be yours” (Scene I line 314). When Oedipus speaks to Teresias. “Has . No.

I cannot become something else. Therefore. I cannot give up the search into my origin. as Nietzsche stated that “The edge of wisdom is turned against wise man. yet Oedipus never hesitates to finding the truth. Nevertheless. even if every step he takes to solve the mystery of the murder brings him closer to self-exposure. he is keen to know more than he should. He is too stubborn to listen to what Teresias has to say to him. let us have no more questioning! Is your life nothing to you? My own pain is enough for me to bear. “You will die now unless you speak the truth” (Scene IV lines 1093). and he disregards himself against it. In doing this. Even his beloved Iocaste and the shepherd refused to explain to him of his cursed life. Yet he never gives up. his knowledge necessarily leads to his own catastrophe rather than his salvation. and I will know who I am” (Scene IV 1084-1085). he pursues knowledge of the tragedy and tries to expose the murderer to no end. he had forced himself to recognize the last puzzle. We. he must tear away his illusion of his own life in which he had lived and contented for so long. do. whereas. however know that as Oedipus learns of Laius’s death. .Page 5 your mystic mummery ever approached the truth. Oedipus need not have forced the truth from the shepherd. it is time things were made plain” (Scene III lines 1003). Nevertheless sometimes. Oedipus has flaws in a sense that he demonstrates error in judgment when he disregards Teresias’ warning. Consequently. wisdom is a crime committed on nature” (Nietzsche 135). He disregards all the information given to him. telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” (Orwell). Because self-destruction as Verseyni established is “the natural outcome of self-assertion through self-knowledge” (Verseyni 205). no matter what it is: “If you have. the puzzle of his own existence. in the case of Oedipus." Jocasta is telling Oedipus not to listen to the oracles and let it go. we all can expect that “in a time of universal deceit. Oedipus’ persistence in equating his identity is unstoppable: “Such being my nature. it is in constant validity that some truths are better kept. the whole truth and nothing but the truth shows his weakness. However. his persistency in seeking for the truth. but because he cannot rest with sufficient lies. In the near end. Jocasta tells Oedipus. that is Oedipus major flaw. is an act of selfdestruction. he creates his own tragic pathway to obliteration. tell me. “For God’s love.

who bears the famous name” (Prologue line 8). but the final result is merely the revelation that there is something basically wrong with the equation” (Verseyni 206). you have the horrors of my own doing! Know the faces of those. III Other attempts to convey the thought that Oedipus is flawed is his pride in himself “Hubris” and his egotistical behavior (Aristotle VIII). he cannot live without knowing himself yet he cannot live having found out who he really is. a man cannot be what he is. As Warlock relates Oedipus’ hamartia is “He was in fault for not perceiving the truth. Therefore. Oedipus biggest flaw is evident here. In addition. he failed as a human being because he is insufficient unto him self. he says. how can Oedipus The king a tragedy without a sin? Oedipus arrogance and hasty temper seems to compile his flawed characteristics. According to Claudianus . he cannot fathom the idea that all the time the only person that he was searching for is himself: No more. No more shall you look on the misery about me. “I Oedipus. “Oedipus tries to know himself. This apparently justifies that Oedipus has much pride for himself. Too long been blind to those for whom I was searching! (Exodus line 1221) As Verseyni indicated. After all. knowing what he is. Verseyni quotes in evidence that Oedipus is responsible for his downfall: “Neither blindness nor sight is conducive to life: not knowing what he is. whom I should never have seen. now he is in fault because he is too urgent to see it” (Warlock 113). and that no one is above him. He feels that he is far important than anybody else.Page 6 Oedipus hamartia is clearly becoming more apparent as the story progresses. man cannot bear to exist” (Verseyni 206). it is inevitable that Oedipus blinded himself after he knew what horrible misdeeds he had committed before. In the prologue scenes. When Oedipus discovered the tragic truth about his life. Oedipus shows arrogance. equate himself with himself. Too long. In The beginning of the play.

sick as you are. and that no one can threaten his “kingship which is caught with wealth and numbers?” (Scene2 line 547). we can perceive here. Moreover. he is quick to accuse Teresias and Creon of plotting against his royal person and station” (Jones 144). I consider the thought that Oedipus is selfish. “I know that you are deathly sick. In the beginning of the play where he stated. for God. Each of you grieves alone. . as Oedipus is saying that he can't be accused of the murder. and yet. “The Tyrannus: Actions and Actors.Another instance in which Oedipus express conceit is by taunting Teresias of his blindness. that he had clashed with his fate and ruined him self because of this admirable act. is his flaw and his idea that he is far superior and far crucial than any body else. there are other parts on the play in which he shows too much pride. This specific quote clearly reflects to Oedipus. and for the city that staggers toward ruin that you must fulfill these junctions” (Scene 1 line 221). IV Such arrogance can lead into narcissism and yet almost an equal function of Oedipus hamartia. Oedipus demonstrates nobility yet again. while my heart must bear strain of sorrow for all-myself” (Prologue Line 62). Hence. Unfortunately. Hence.” In Scene 1. they could disagree that Oedipus is devoted to his country. Others may contradict this statement. Oedipus failed to avoid his hubris. he pays no attention to his populace tormented with disease and havoc in which the plague had caused. whereas he demonstrates and exhibits his self-centered behavior in times where he refers to his kingship and how authoritative he is. others may argue with this. not one is sick as I. he pride himself with paramount arrogance that he thinks no one can stop him. Oedipus affronted Teresias and pride himself by stating “You child of endless night! You cannot hurt me or any other man who sees the sun” (Scene I line 361). In his essay. This is definitely showing his self-importance. Oedipus is far more concerned in himself rather than his country.” John Jones argued about the matter that “Oedipus failed to control and evade his hubris”: he is confident of his own success. Oedipus expresses egotism “It’s for me. Additionally.Page 7 “Pride sullies the noblest character” (Claudianus).

condemning him of yearning for his throne. Oedipus believes that he can do no wrong. although I have some pity on him because He is a marked man and doomed since birth. everywhere admired!” Although he was speaking to Creon. Even the Chorus is aware of his overwhelming arrogance and selfishness. Whereas. yet he succumb himself in his weakness. Oedipus also wants to keep his throne and save himself. that his illusion of his life may be entirely the contrary.Page 8 Nevertheless. daring his audacity on the idea that he was the only one to be able to solve the Sphinx's riddle: “Where were you when the monster was here weaving her spells and taunts? What words of relief did Thebes here from you? I came and smothered her. It is obviously comprehensible that Oedipus is exhibiting his ego in the play. There are many examples in the story of his conceit. Oedipus is possessed with far great qualities. He seems revolted at the thought that he is not faultless. I found his character somewhat deplorable. he choose to act with conceit and is far more concerned that his image will be damage by the allegations. In the first Chorus. I firmly believe that Sophocles had established this awful behavior of Oedipus as an instance. craft of statesmanship! Kingly position. using only my wit” (Scene I lines 383). Recklessness and vanity” (Scene 1 line 164). Oedipus also exclaims “Wealth. Moreover. He associates himself with the oracle. the chorus criticized and announced Oedipus as “the tyrant is a child of Pride. Who drinks from his great sickening cup. these several cases of hamartia is established as several cases in point that provides us a rationale explanation in which Oedipus with flaws validate his downfall. Oedipus clearly states that he holds the position everyone admires and wishes to obtain. Might that perhaps the reason why people and gods have been so cruel to him because of his pride and his selfishness? It seems reasonable. In the beginning. he claims to act for King Laius in his own self interest. as the realist author Joanne Kathleen Rowling had affirmed in my generation. Accordingly. “It is our choices that show what we truly are. Hence. After all. power. far more than our abilities” (Jk Rowling). Page 9 . that he murdered King Laius than whether they may be true.

Because of his error he had found who he really is. he tears himself in tragic humility. for his mistakes and for the sake of populace of Thebes is suitable enough. Adams has a generalized theory about Oedipus The King. We can learn something of valuable. that it is Oedipus himself who encompass flaws of his and not the reality that he killed his father and wed his mother that ruined him. So far as I can criticize and conclude. This affirmation is surmises by Jean Nidetch “its choice –not chance that determines your destiny” ( Nidetch). we will be left devouring over different points of view. the Page 10 . individuals can be universal therefore. That aphorism evidently associates with Aristotle’s idea of a noble turned tragic hero due to the mistakes that he had committed. it’s remarkable that we can learn something from Oedipus. it is factual that “Destiny is a tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure” (Bierce). Besides. Yet. Others may refute my proposal and yet that’s what intrigues me about Oedipus the King. heart and souls to search and grasp the causes and effects of Oedipus characteristics. It allows our minds. we know deeply that our arguments and questions will by no means be answered sufficiently and accurately. Furthermore. I have come to realize that there’s more to him than we will ever know. body and soul in writing tragedies. we can envision that Sophocles excels in composing an exceptional prose of tragedy. In our age.The question which I have raised in this paper may well have other aspects to some readers. were books are tarnished by video games and computers. he indicates “Oedipus stands for something –ideal man. trying to conjure and convey our ideas to Sophocles. a work of masterpiece penned 2. He demonstrates that one’s writer has to be concerned with an individual’s heart. Without limits we try to unravel his tragic story like a modern day CSI. Whereas. And yet. For the matter that Oedipus is atoning for guilt.000 years ago. we try to find clues and justify them in a sense. In the end. and the tragic hero has even been compared to later projects of veneration” (Adams109). often read texts. one can completely acquire its own qualities and still every individual can still identify with that person. even though Oedipus is flawed. or all humanity. We are left grasping for leftovers. or like the play has been supposed to represent expiation through suffering.

this book does inspire us to take a better look on our self and our own mistakes in life. .consequences of our Hamartia. considering all of us are flawed.

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