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  • Character:
    The Tragic Flaw

    Oedipus Rex logo

      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 such families."

      He continues to elaborate that "the change of fortune should be... from good to bad... and come about as the result...of some frailty."

      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 flaw' [hamartia]."

      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 and emotion."

      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 Thebes.

      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

      Special lecture
      "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!
    • Friday, April 8 @ 8:15pm
    • Saturday, April 9 @ 8:15pm
    • Sunday, April 10 @ 2:00pm


    Theatre UAF