Oedipus the King Author:Sophocles (translated by Bernard W. Knox) Oedipus the King: The Tragedy of Fate — In the world of Sophocles' Oedipus the King, everything happens on a grand scale, from feats of heroism to the most terrible of mistakes. It is a world of gods, prophets, kings, and plagues; a world of ancient tragedy whose stories unfold with relentless majesty and high emotion. As the great philosopher Ar... more »istotle explained in his Poetics (350 BC), the great tragedies are plays capable of arousing pity and fear, and thereby of purging those very emotions in us. Since at least Aristotle's time, Oedipus the King has been praised as a model of the greatness of Greek tragedy. For Aristotle the genius of the play resided in the organic perfection of its structure, and Sophocles' characterization -- remarkably complex for his time -- of Oedipus.
Generations of readers and spectators after Aristotle have agreed with his assessment of Oedipus. The king's flaws are clear enough to make his tragic fall believable, but so deeply enmeshed with his heroic qualities that we cannot help but feel sympathy for him. And while some have found Oedipus' plot frustrating -- the great eighteenth-century satirist Voltaire complained that it was absurd Oedipus knew so little about the death of Laius -- most readers have felt that its complex unfolding illustrates the mysterious nature and wondrous certainty of fate.« less