Aristotle's Poetics

The First Aristotelian Tragedy: Oedipus Rex

Aristotle’s passage Poetics (350 BC) was written the century after the composition of Sophocles Oedipus the King (428 BC). Despite their chronological separation, the two texts relate in incisive ways. In particular, Aristotle used Oedipus as the foundation for his explanation theory. For Aristotle, a tragedy must have certain characteristics that Oedipus the King contains to differ from other written genres. His definition of tragedy has influenced tragic literature since. He declares that “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and possessing magnitude; in embellished language, each kind of which is used separately in different parts; in the mode of action, and not narrated; and effecting through pity and fear (what we call) the katharsis of such emotions..." (Aristotle 521). Oedipus exemplifies these features by encompassing a certain magnitude, illustrating a complete flow, presenting a tragic complex plot, and having a protagonist with a tragic flaw, or “hamartia,” that leads to “katharsis”.

Oedipus' plot, for example, is the "end for which a tragedy exists" (Aristotle 522). The plot of Oedipus possess certain magnitude or “seriousness” because of the violation of two...

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