In his Poetics, Aristotle writes of the good
man "whose misfortune is brought about
not by vice or depravity, but by some error
or frailty. He must be one who is highly
renowned and prosperous-a personage like
Oedipus, Thyestes or other illustrious men of
He continues to elaborate that
"the change of fortune should be... from good
to bad... and come about as the result...of
In the last century, some scholars have come
to doubt this theory of "the tragic flaw."
Sophocles went out of his way to present
Oedipus as an extremely capable, beloved
administrator. "The playwright never suggests
that Oedipus has brought his destiny on himself by any 'ungodly pride' [hubris] or 'tragic
Other scholars, including
Bernard Knox, write that not one trait of
Oedipus is designated a tragic flaw, but the
actions that produce Oedipus' catastrophe
stem from all sides of his character, of the
total man. And the total man, as Aristotle
wrote, is more good than bad.
Knox is supported by Charles Segal. In the
confrontational scene of Tiresias and Oedipus,
both men lose their tempers and their shouting
just goes past each other. "Rather than providing a basis for a tragic flaw, this scene is the
play's most dramatic enactment to this point
of the tragedy of knowledge: truth is trapped
in illusion and in the disturbances of language
The difference is in their
beliefs: Tiresias looks toward the gods whom
he serves, the king toward reason and the
human motives that he can understand.
In a somewhat irreverent but intelligent
analysis of Oedipus, Daniels and Scully in
their book, What Really Goes On in
Sophocles' Theban Plays assert that Oedipus
does not ask six significant questions that
have clung to him before the plague arrived in
1. Where did the scars on
my ankles come from?
2. Who are my real
3. How can I best avoid killing my
father and marrying my mother?
4. Is this old
man who forced me off the road and rudely
swatted me from his carriage my father?
Who killed the king whose throne I have just
6. Is this widow I am about to
marry my mother?"
The more we learn as the
plot unfolds, the more it becomes clear that
Oedipus' one intellectual success, solving the
riddle of the Sphinx, was a fluke.
In Daniels and Scully's opinion Oedipus has
a mistaken pride in his investigative skills,
loves the limelight, and has a huge ego that
thirsts for acclaim. In addition, he is extremely
defensive when he perceives a threat to himself or his reputation. In summary: "Oedipus
is an unintelligent macho posturer."
OEDIPUS REX by Sophocles
April 110, 2005
"Open house" lecture about Sophocles, Oedipus, Greek mythology and more.
Featuring the Stage Director of Oedipus Rex Anatoly Anohin, Set Designer Timaree McCormick, Lillian Corti "Blindness, Sight, and Psycoanalysis in Oedipus" of the UAF English Department and Dr.
Joseph Thompson "Oedipus Rex and the Oracle at Delphi" of the UAF Philosophy & Humanities
Department. Monday, March 28, 5:30pm in the Lee H. Salisbury Theatre Free Admission & will be available online via streaming audio and video! Check back here for details.OEDIPUS REX in the Lee H. Salsibury Theatre
Friday, April 1 @ 8:15pm
Saturday, April 2 @ 8:15pm
Sunday, April 3 @ 2:00pm followed by a Q&A with the director and cast!