Who is Oedipus

Compare the character of Oedipus to one of the following paintings:

Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1864

Francis Bacon, Oedipus and the Sphinx (after Ingres), 1983

Look at lines 1-15 aswell as 245-314 to make your comparison. Annotate this part of the play.

Hubris and Hamartia

So what drives Oedipus to his eventual downfall? It would appear in some respects that he acted logically eg. Leaving Corinth to avoid the prophecy; disbelieving the word of Tiresias as merely prophecy. However, in both of these examples there is contradiction: he leaves Corinth to avoid killing his father and marrying his mother but continue to kill people and marry those old enough to be his mother (we have explained this in relation to narrative); in the latter, he listens fully to the prophecy in Corinth but ignores it in Thebes.

The ancient Greeks use the word hubris to describe when pride clouds judgement and leads to the eventual fall of a character.

Task: Is hubris at play in the above to examples? Find examples. Look at lines 954 – 997: what does the chorus have to say about hubris?

A related aspect to Oedipus’ downfall is the concept of hamartia. There is some debate as to whether these terms mean “tragic flaw” or “mistake”(error of judgement) but either interpretation works for Detective Eddie.

Task: read about what Aristotle had to say about hamartia. In what way might it be interpreted as tragic flaw? what about mistake?

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