Oedipus the King Commanding Army General

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Oedipus the King Commanding Army General
Oedipus the King Commanding Army General

Directions: Students must provide five (5) examples of each of the FIRST FOUR Character Traits, AND THE LAST MAIN EXAMPLE of the FIFTH TRAIT, of Oedipus, as indicated in the Handout previously given.

Oedipus the King Commanding Army General Example

Each example should begin with a short quotation from the play (1-2 lines at most) which demonstrates Oedipus acting out this trait. Each quotation must present in parenthetical format (MLA). After the quotation, students should give three to four sentences of explanation about the context of the quotation.


The Classical Hero is said to possess FIVE CHARACTER TRAITS, which are:

  • High-Standing
  • Character Defect/Flaw (Fatal Flaw)
  • Downfall of Hero because of the Flaw
  • Others Suffering Because of Hero and His Flaw.
  • Epiphany or Awakening of the Hero to his Flaw.

(1)        The Hero (Protagonist) in Classical Drama is first and foremost a Man of High-Standing. Typically, he is at the top

of his society, at the apex of a pyramid. He may be a king (as is Oedipus) or a commanding army general or navy admiral (as is Othello). If he is not at the pinnacle of society, then he is very close to the pinnacle. He may be a prince (as is Hamlet) or a great warrior upon whom an army depends (as is Achilles).

Oedipus the King Commanding Army General

The Hero has wealth and its concomitant power, so that his influence is widely and deeply felt by others.

(2)        The Hero is possessed of a Character Defect or Fatal Flaw. This is a trait in his character which becomes his chief problem, for the defect gets in the way of his ability to govern himself and thence his kingdom (or others) effectively. In ancient Greek, this flaw is called hamartia, and the word best translates into ‘sin’. The Hero will certainly have at least one such flaw, and in many cases, will have multiple flaws. The more flaws he has, the more complex will be his character, and the more complicated and layered will be his conduct in the drama. Below are several examples of classical flaws:

(a)        Anger or Bad Temper or Irrationality

(b)        Jealousy

(c)        Lust and/or Greed(Concupiscience—Improper Desire)

(d)       Pride—the belief that one has only himself to consider as the final authority in decision-making—i.e. there is no regard or scant regard for ‘God’.

Oedipus the King Commanding Army General

The Hero does, of course, possess good qualities, but these tend to be outweighed by his flaw(s), so that he is imbalanced, out of equilibrium. In a deeply real way, the Hero is dealing with these competing parts of his personality, experiencing thereby a psychomachia (war of the soul).

(3)        The Hero’s Defect(s) or Flaw(s) lead(s) inevitably to his Downfall. This means that his Character issues become central impediments to his ability to maintain control of his life. The Flaw(s) destabalize(s) the Hero so that he begins losing his ‘authority’ to govern the events of his life. He begins to lose his position atop the pyramid. He might, for example, be dethroned or charged with a crime or have his subordinates disobey and/or plot against him, since these subordinates sense weakness in the Hero and thus the prospect of taking advantage of that weakness.

Oedipus the King Commanding Army General

(4)        The Hero’s downfall has Adverse Effects on Others. This is the logical result of the Hero being posted at the top of the pyramid. When he falls, so do those who are under him and who, thereby, rely upon his power for their stability. Thus, the Hero’s nuclear family (wife, children) are harmed, either mortally or fatally; and the wider circle of subordinates, such as the people he governs in his kingdom, suffers from, for instance, plagues sent by the gods to punish the Hero. We might call this Fourth Impact the Radiatory or Knock-On Effect.


(5)        Finally, the Hero has, at the end of the drama, an Epiphany, or a Gradual Realization of the Truth about the Tragedy of His Flaw(s). The Hero experiences that blinding light of the truth about the fact that he is responsible for all the tragedy and great loss (usually the deaths of people to whom he is closest). In this Epiphany or ‘Ah ha’ moment—as Oprah calls it, the Hero will often question and ponder, briefly, the meaning of FATE or DESTINY in his life and, more broadly and philosophically, the lives of men. He may question the justice of the gods and question man’s ultimate purpose in life and the futility of life.

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