Oedipus fulfills the function of a tragedy, and arouses fear and pity in the highest degree. But unfortunately a modern reader, coming to the classic drama not entirely for the purpose of enjoyment, will not always surrender himself to the emotional effect. He is correct to worry about Greek fatalism and the justice of the downfall of Oedipus, and, finding no satisfactory solution for these difficulties, loses half the pleasure that the drama was intended to produce.
Aristotle finds the end of human endeavor to be happiness, that is, the unhindered activity of the soul in accordance with true reason, throughout a complete lifetime. By the light of this vision the wise man preserves a just balance among his natural impulses, and firmly and consistently directs his will and emotions toward the supreme end which reason approves. He has therefore an inward happiness, which cannot be shaken. The most successful people are the sensible ones, and misfortune is due, in large measure, to lack of knowledge or lack of prudence. Even if he is crushed beneath an overwhelming catastrophe from without, the ideas character of the Ethics is not an object of fear and pity, for the truly good and sensible man bears all the chances of life with decorum, and always does what is noblest in the circumstances, as a good general uses the forces at his command to the best advantage in war.
Such is the ideal character, the man who is best fitted to attain happiness in the world of men. On the other hand, the tragic hero is a man who fails to attain happiness, and fails in such a way that his career excites, not blame, but fear and pity in the highest degree. In the Poetics, he is described as not eminently good and just, not completely under the guidance of true reason, but as falling through some great error, flaw of character, rather than through vice of depravity. Moreover, in order that his downfall may be as striking as possible, he must be, as was Oedipus, of an illustrious family, highly renowned, and prosperous. When we analyze the character of Oedipus, we discover that, in spite of much natural greatness of soul, he is, in one vital respect, the exact antithesis of Aristotle’s ideal man. He has no clear vision which enables him to examine every side clearly, and to see all things in due perspective; nor has he a calm wisdom which is always master of his passions.
The statement, “a man’s character is his fate” is a very powerful statement that I strongly agree with. I believe this is true because, in my opinion, you choose your fate by the actions and choices you make every day and your actions and choices make up your character. Someone’s character can say a lot about them and your character most always chooses your fate. Your character determines what ...
According to Aristotle, the man who attains perfect happiness in the world is the wise man who sees in all their aspects the facts or the forces with which he is dealing, and can balance and direct his own impulses in accordance with reason. In the Oedipus Rex Sophocles had already shown the reverse. The man who sees but one side of a matter, and straightway, driven on by his uncontrolled emotions, acts in accordance with that imperfect vision, meets a fate most pitiful and terrible, in accordance with the great laws which the gods have made.