Tragic Heroes over the Course of History in Literature In the works Oedipus by: Sophocles, Macbeth by: William Shakespeare, and The Natural by: Bernard Malamud, the main protagonists, Oedipus, Macbeth, and Roy Hobbes, all find themselves in the unfortunate situation of being a tragic hero. They strive to do great things, but in the end meet their downfall through an unfortunate hamartia, or tragic flaw. Although they all live in different time periods and locations (Oedipus, hundreds of years before Christ in Greece, Macbeth, the Middle Ages in Scotland, and Roy Hobbes, the early Twentieth Century in America).
They all possess a flaw that brings them down. They all have multiple flaws, and coincidently are all cursed by one hamartia, excessive pride or hubris. Oedipus thought he could solve any problem placed before him, when in fact he himself was the problem. Macbeth thought he deserved to be King of Scotland more than anyone else, and was driven to do horrible and heinous crimes to accomplish this. Roy Hobbes thought he was going to be the best baseball player there ever was, and was concentrated more on his own performance rather than the whole teams.
Supporting characters did not help any of the protagonists either. Roy Hobbes was manipulated by women into doing things for them, and Roy’s fatal vulnerability ruined him in the end. Macbeth was practically forced to kill his own king by his wife, who was more ambitious than he was. Oedipus was driven to do bold things because of the mystery and his dependence on oracles. It was all the precautions he took that eventually lead to his downfall. All of these characters are united by their fatal flaws that define their actions and destiny.
Though the characters lived in different time periods, they all have flaws that bring about their downfall. In the Greek tragedy Oedipus the King by: Sophocles, a heroic king falls as a result of poor actions, horrible luck, and fate. All of these unfortunate qualities can be attributed to his incessant hubris that is evident throughout the play. Oedipus falls into the hands of fate after becoming terrified of a message from an oracle, who stated that Oedipus would kill his father, and marry his mother.
He then ran away from who he thought were his parents in Corinth, to his actual parents in Thebes. At an intersection, Oedipus killed a man who was treating him poorly, and this man happened to be his father. He then went to Thebes, where he defeated the mighty Sphinx who had been plaguing the city for years. After, all of the citizens of Thebes celebrated the liberation of their city, and made Oedipus king, and the queen who was already in power his wife.
Unfortunately for Oedipus, the Oracle’s prophecy had come full circle, as this was his mother. Through a long grueling turn of events, Oedipus realizes the nature of his current life, and is in severe emotional agony. Through all this pain, he realizes the consequences of his pride, but he does claim at the end of the play that he truly did not know the nature of his marriage or the nature of his murder at the intersection. This is where he truly has realized all of his weaknesses. As a result, he gets somewhat uplifted at the end of the play.
Oedipus’s shortsightedness was the reason for most of his suffering. As a result, he was unable to recognize any information that reflected badly on him to be true. Jonathan Lear comments on Oedipus’s inability to see the consequences of his actions: Oedipus is living a life where he denies the possibility of tragedy. He cannot recognize any dimension of meaning other than the one he already knows. It’s fine, he thinks, to consult oracles and prophets if they can give useful advice; otherwise they’re worse than useless.
His way of life shows that he does not take seriously the idea that there may be meaning opaque than human understanding. (Lear 198) Oedipus’s shortsightedness can be attributed to his extreme hubris. He places his achievement of defeating the Sphinx above anything the God’s could accomplish. This is one of the biggest “no-no’s” in literature. This leads to his ultimate downfall. His cockiness determines his horrible fate, which means that Sophocles emphasized both the ideas that fate exists, and that one is the master of his or her own fate.
Oedipus assures the crowd of citizens that he is great, and will find the source of the plague, and end it: This quest that throngs you here, poor needy children, Is no new quest to me. (Sophocles 7) Oedipus noted how he can back up his “big talk” by bluntly saying that he has been in the face of evil before, and since he has done it once, he can do it again. Little does he know that the “rotting canker in the state” is Oedipus himself, and no amount of practice against evil will help him when he has to square with that truth.