Sophocles’s play is an ambiguous one, open to more than one reasonable interpretation. (Refer to text, pages 81-82.) Choose one of the following interpretations to support in an essay.
1. It’s Oedipus’s fault. (pick a flaw)
In his Poetics, written during the century after Oedipus was first performed, Aristotle defines tragedy. Aristotle considers Oedipus as the best representation of the tragic hero, “one who is highly renowned and prosperous,” yet “not eminently good and just.” Furthermore, his “misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty.” Hamartia, is the Greek word for the hero’s tragic flaw.
2. Oedipus must be punished to uphold the moral order of the universe. (connect to classical ideal—similar to karma as discussed in class)
Oedipus is guilty of terrible crimes, and the gods (or fate) cause(s) his downfall to illustrate the enforcement of moral laws. The Greeks believed in a universal contract of order and stability in which gods, human society, and nature all participated. Hubris is an act of aggression that throws this cosmic machinery out of gear. The universe must make a counter-movement to right itself; the counter-movement is called nemesis, often translated as “retribution” or “fate.”
3. In determining Oedipus’s destiny, the gods are indifferent to human suffering (consider only fate)
Though Oedipus’s acts violate the laws of gods and men, he is morally and legally innocent. His downfall illustrates a world order whose workings do not square with human conceptions of justice. Oedipus’s destiny was entirely determined by forces (gods) outside of his control. The gap between these remote gods and any sense of meaningful (just) human suffering makes life cruel and hell-like.
Thinking Process: Once you have chosen the interpretation that you want to support, brainstorm everything in the play that led you to the interpretation (Consider everything—characters, lines of the chorus, key scenes, etc.) Then combine