What Does Oedipus''s Speech To the Thebans Reveal About His Character?
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Sophocles starts the tragedy when Oedipus’ fortune is at its very height – he has solved the riddle and is a prosperous, respected king with wife and children. Note how many times in this early section of the play he is referred to as Oedipus the ‘great’. Some commentators have also found in Oedipus an unpleasant arrogance or pride – a sense of self-regard – which might be considered a ‘tragic flaw’ (an idea that seems to come from a mistranslation of the word hamartiameaning ‘mistake’). One might also suggest that Oedipus’ pride is manifest in his identification of himself with Thebes, the city - and of the way he takes up the challenge of finding the murderer in order to secure his own kingship.
This is a compelling reading, but it is similarly important to remember that, even at this first stage of the play, Oedipus’ pride does not bring about any of the events that cause the plague. The murder of Laius, after all, happened many years ago, and he already has four children fathered by his mother. Though Oedipus’ own pride is responsible for his ultimate discovery of what he has done, it does not actually cause it. Oedipus’ so-called ‘tragic flaw’ has surprisingly very little to do with his tragic fate.