The Influence Of Aristotle On Oedipus Rex

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Oedipus rex is a tragic play developed by Sophocles, which was first premiered in 429 BC. The play tells the story of Oedipus, who was a king in Thebes, who was presumed to unwittingly murder his father and unknowingly marry his mother following a prophecy to make to Laius, who was the previous king of Thebes. Laius to all precautions to avert the prediction, but a twist of events happened, and the prophecy comes to pass (Sophocles). After the birth of Oedipus, Laius ordered Oedipus’ legs to be broken and be left to die in the forest. A shepherd comes across him and takes him to the king of Corinth, where he was raised as the prince. When he learns that he is not the son of the king of Corinth, Oedipus consults the oracle, learns of the prophecy, and escapes to Thebes, where he fulfills it without knowing. This tragedy greatly influenced the poetry of Aristotle, who developed the theory of tragedy, which significantly shaped the perception of tragedy plays to modern times.

Aristotle defined a tragedy as an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and has a certain level of magnitude, which is attained through fear and pity and which affects the purgation of the emotions (Belfiore, 348). In the explanation of feelings, Aristotle utilized the concept of catharsis, which means the purification of the feelings of fear and pity mostly portrayed through arts (Munteanu, 242). In this case, Aristotle argues that the purpose of tragedy is to develop the aspect of terror and compassion to the audience. Through Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy, he states that a tragic hero does not need to be a villain or a virtuous character. In this case, the tragic hero is a character that lies between the two extremes. The misfortune of the character is not attained through the aspect of deprivation or vice but rather the undertaking of an error or weakness (Munteanu, 235). Therefore, the element of catharsis is examined through the effect that the piece of art has on the spectator. Thus, the concept means the purging of the body emotions attained through the intense action involved in the different tragedy plays through a distance as the play reaches its climax. Aristotle states that the play’s plot plays a significant role in a play to be considered a tragedy (Belfiore, 174). The catharsis concept describes why individuals purge the feelings of fear and pity as they watch tragic plays in theatres directly from their seats.

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According to the theory of tragedy developed by Aristotle, for a play to be a tragedy, three key aspects should occur to the audience. First, the audience must establish an emotional connection to the tragic hero for a play to be considered a tragic play. Also, for a play to be tragic the audience must fear that something terrible might happen to the hero (Munteanu, 243). Lastly, the audience should pity the hero on the various aspects that ought to happen to him. In this case, Aristotle considers Oedipus rex a perfect example of a tragic play since it meets the three conditions. When watching the Oedipus rex, individuals develop an emotional attachment to Oedipus because he is a noble character. In this case, Oedipus is perceived as a better version of an average individual who undertakes ordinary activities and where the plot makes it to be an absolute tragedy (Sophocles). This situation is associated with the transition that the play takes from peripeteia, anagnorisis, and then a catastrophe. Such changes are related to the transformation of emotions from happiness to mystery through the tragic flow of events in the play (Munteanu, 206). Due to this reason, the play evokes different emotions to the audience. Such emotions range from fear when the events start to turn tragic and later to pity when the hero faces tragedy and disaster strikes. The change of circumstances from fortune to disaster are experienced when Oedipus realizes that he is the son of Jocasta and Laius, and the events that take place after that makes the audience to pity him (Belfiore, 144).

Oedipus rex is a perfect example of a tragic play. This aspect is based on the play transitions from a simple starting to the development of a tragedy. In this case, the play develops an element of fear during its beginning, and then the audience pities Oedipus as the story develops later, leading to the development of a tragedy at the end, leaving the audience experiencing the thrill through the play. The plot of the play is considered to play a significant role in the development of tragedies, and this aspect forms the basis of modern forms of tragedy. The various transitions of events in Oedipus are considered to lead to the development of catharsis. Through the theory of tragedy by Aristotle, the modern audience can analyze a play and develop a strong relationship with the hero leading. Therefore, the understanding of the nature of tragedies, as explained by Aristotle, makes it easy for the audience to develop catharsis.

Works cited

  1. Belfiore, Elizabeth S. Tragic pleasures: Aristotle on plot and emotion. Vol. 182. Princeton
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