“The world of gods and the world of men were quite apart; gods were not primarily concerned with regulating men, not men with emulating gods… So far from being a punishment for error, tragedy may therefore be proof of the sufferer’s merits and demonstration that he deserves the status of hero.” Ancient gods had their own world partially separated from the human one. In their “gods’ world” two plus two might equal five, but in the world of men they must continue making it four which results is tragedy. Gods could never fail because they establish what is right or wrong. Punishment for gods’ mistakes was eliminated in gods’ world. They appear in the earliest literature for the reason to give advice to people, most of the time simply because people cannot recognize what is right and what is wrong. There were individual gods to solve special problems and their concern for mortal being depended solely on these particular interests. However, there was one thing that may have made them wish they were like humans and that was that they could not taste what is to be human. The ancient gods could never know how it feels to fall from misfortune to happiness, to fight against their destiny, experience the consequences of one’s choices good or bad, and since the fact they were immortal they could never gain the status of a hero. Even a flawed human could still be honored as a hero. Oedipus’ problem was that he did not listen neither to Chorus nor to Jocasta, and he wanted to find out the dreadful truth. Sophocles’ play begins and ends with Oedipus, a man who Apollo’s priest declares: “equal to the gods.” The biggest concern throughout the play is whether Oedipus’ punishment is from the gods because of their envy or given as a result of his own or someone else’s mistakes.
Oedipus deserves to be called a tragic hero suffering a destiny if his punishment is from the gods, otherwise he is a pitiful figure who suffers from others’ human flaws by Tiresias words. Oedipus possesses faults and makes mistakes, but overall his actions are virtuous because they show he is a selfless man of action and principle proving he is a tragic hero.
Oedipus, who Apollo’s priest calls power to whom all men turn, blames Tiresias, a blind prophet, as a murderer of Laius. This accusation is Oedipus’ prideful opinion. He is convinced Tiresias is the one who he wants to kill even though he does not know the truth. The chorus describes how Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx, and at the same time they call him a wise man, but they let the audience know that intelligence and knowledge are two different things. The chorus says: “The truth with all its strength is in Tiresias... Oedipus answered the riddle with his own intelligence.” Oedipus is too proud for himself. As the savior of his country he gets easily mad and annoyed by Tiresias words. Oedipus cries out: “Everything you say is the same- riddles, obscurities…once you are out of the way you won’t annoy me any more.” Tiresias is not afraid to ask the king about the truth of his parents:
“But you, who have eyes, cannot see the evil in which you stand; you cannot see where you are living, not with whom you share your house…without knowing it, you are the enemy of your own flesh and blood, the dead below and the living here above.”
Tiresias reveals enough to him to make him wonder about his parents. Now, Oedipus irrationally blames Creon as the murderer, and says Creon is: “a robber attempting to steal his throne.” The chorus and Jocasta try to defend Creon and give rational advice, but the obstinate Oedipus does not want to listen their suggestions and he goes to explore his journey to find out who his parents are. He finds out about the shocking truth of his parents from a shepherd, and when he returns to his palace he blinds himself. He is to terrible a sight that the chorus wish “they had never seen him.” His awful change creates his desire that he could have died on the mountain side, Mount Cithaeron, as a baby. He would rather be death now than alive and blind. The chorus reminds the audience and Oedipus that his blindness is his own choice, the consequence of his independent action after he finds out the truth. The chorus wonders why Oedipus did it: “You have done dreadful things; my eyes are drawn towards you- but I cannot bear to look.” Oedipus is defending his actions and refuses the chorus statement. “From all of this I am cut off, I, the most nobly raised in Thebes, cut off by my own act. It was I who proclaimed that everyone should expel the impious man- the man the gods have now revealed as unholy- and the son of Laius.”Oedipus is many-sided and subtly complicated character, yet he has a wonderful consistency. He does possess faults, and he makes mistakes but he is a good man after all. Oedipus is the man of decisive actions which shows us his courage and authority. He does not like the fact he is still alive because if he died, how his parents wanted to, his father would be alive and his mother would not marry her own son. He cries: “I might have died then and there; but now I am a source of grief for myself and all who love me.” Nevertheless, there is still a slight modest kind of desire that destined him to live. His hope is evident as he says: “I am in the dark, but I can distinguish your voice clearly.” Oedipus realizes that he has control of his ears and even though he is blind, he can hear.
A tragic hero by Aristotle definition is a good man falling from happiness to misfortune. Chorus is helping to remain the audience about his past and present in the moment Oedipus finds out about his origin. They say: “Oedipus won complete prosperity and happiness. He destroyed the Sphinx, and rose up like a towered wall against death, Oedipus, savior of our city… And now- is there a man whose story is more pitiful?” One can distinguish that Oedipus’ present and past were greatly different. There is still something he would never give up; his city of Thebes: “The sorrows of my people here mean more to me than any fear I may have for my own life.” This statement proves that Oedipus truly cares and loves his own city. Oedipus is no ordinary man: a man who, starting with nothing but through his energy and activity, has become beloved ruler of his city. As the Aristotle definition says a tragic hero must fall from happiness to misfortune, Oedipus is a perfect example.
Furthermore a tragic hero is described as a person of some importance, from a highly renowned and prosperous place. “I am in power here.” Oedipus is the king of Thebes. He is renowned for his intelligence and he was made its king by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. “I shall be the defender of Thebes, and Apollo’s champion, too.” When the citizens of Thebes beg their king to do something about the plague, Oedipus has already sent Creon to the oracle at Delphi for advice. The term "catharsis" from Aristotle’s definition of tragic hero means the purging or cleansing of pity and fear from the spectators as they watch the play on stage. In this way tragedy relieves them of harmful emotions, leaving them better people for their experience. “Even his enemies would pity,” said the messenger. Because he remains a virtues man his punishment is not defeated. He himself believed: ”I am the victim of some harsh divinity; what other explanation can there be?” Oedipus, as every other man, deserves a free will, and by stabbing his eyes he reminds a sacrifice for all the people in Thebes.
Sophocles tragedy Oedipus the King demonstrates an image of man’s heroism when faced with defeat. According to Aristotle's theory of tragedy and his definition of the central character, Oedipus the hero of Sophocles is considered a classical model of the tragic hero.
Man is not equated to the gods, but man can accomplish what gods are not able to do: he can be known as a virtuous hero because he was dealt misfortune and stood firm.