Sophocles' Oedipus is a perfect fit to Aristotle's Ideal Tragic Hero. Oedipus follows all of the rules, with a hamartia, an anagnorisis, and a peripeteia.
The audience is introduced to the hamartia, or tragic flaw, of Oedipus early in the play. Oedipus believes he can dodge the oracle given to him at Delphi that he will kill his father and marry his mother.
By leaving the city of Corinth and heading to Thebes, Oedipus thinks that he can outsmart the will that the gods have for him. However, the audience knows that one cannot run away from an oracle.
The oracle will come true no matter what is done. Therefore, the hamartia of Oedipus is his belief that he can evade his oracle. Oedipus' anagnorisis, recognition, later comes when he is told that it was he who killed
the former King Lauis and that he is, in fact, now married to his own mother. The city of Thebes had been searching for King Lauis' murderer in order to drive him out of Thebes to save the city from the plague.
With this anagnorisis Oedipus is finally led to his peripeteia, or downfall. First of all, Oedipus is put to shame in front of his entire city because of his incestuous act of marrying his mother. But, more importantly,
he realizes that he had not successfully avoided the oracle. In order to try to save himself he blinds himself. If he is not able to see the truth with his own eyes, he should not be able to enjoy the gift of sight.
This page written and designed by Yvonne Sample for CLAS230 Classical Mythology at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois. 2005