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Oedipus Rex Hero or Villain?

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Introduction

Oedipus displays characteristics of both a hero and a villain. He saves the city of Thebes with his bravery and intellect resulting in him being praised and respected by the people. These people perceive him as their hero. Although, as he breaks the divine law and commits patricide and incest, he is perceived now as a villain. It is his personality and the traits he possesses which cause him to make such decisions. The Gods predetermined what Oedipus was going to choose to do due to his character, and Oedipus also chose to ignore what they said as he ignorantly believed he could escape this fate. Oedipus' character at the beginning of the play is one which comes across as a hero. He uses his intellect and confidence to answer the riddle of the Sphinx, freeing Thebes from the Sphinx's reign. ...read more.

Middle

This causes the Thebans to now have greater hope in Oedipus as the hero of Thebes. Oedipus had no knowledge of who his parents were or what he had done. Therefore he cannot be blamed as an evil person because of his ignorance. Oedipus' nature leads him to be blind to his truth as he refuses to believe the prophecy he has been foretold. This nature the Oedipus possesses forces him to make the decisions which he does, as his arrogance leads him to believe that he is above all of man, and is equal to the Gods. It is this persona which leads him to be the villain of the story. Oedipus' self-destruction and fall from power leave him as the villain in the play and not the heroic man he was once thought to be. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Gods did not choose Oedipus' fate and they have no influence on his decisions, but they did know beforehand what actions Oedipus was going to make and therefore this is where the prophecy came from. The prophecy was a pre-knowledge from the Gods on what Oedipus will choose to do, not what he is made to do. This aspect emphasises that Oedipus did have choice in what he did, causing him to be a villain. Oedipus shows both traits of a hero and that of a villain. To the people of Thebes, he begins the play as a hero, although his underlying crimes and the decisions he made to do so cause him to behave like a villain. His characteristics and arrogance are factors that cause his downfall and the realization of his truth. His choices are what lead him to commit the crimes that he does and are ultimately the factors which cause him to be the villain in Sophocles play. ...read more.

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