Drama: Aristotle’s “Poetics” in “Oedipus the King”

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One of the scenes that exemplify Aristotle’s “Poetics” in “Oedipus the King” is the one where the citizens have congregated in the King’s court asking for his help. The citizens are concerned about the plague that has struck Thebes. The king then informs the crowd that he has already sent Creon, his brother to Delphi to consult an oracle.

Creon comes back and informs the crowd that the oracle stated that the plague can only come to an end once the murder of King Laius has been solved and the murderer is banished from Thebes. According to Aristotle’s “Poetics”, tragedy is the type of poetry that deals with ‘lofty’ issues. Unlike comedy, tragedy drama does not concern itself with ‘base’ matters.

The seriousness of the play’s plot is clearly defined in this first scene where the Kingdom of Thebes is facing a catastrophe. Aristotle also notes that the seriousness of tragedy drama helps in highlighting universal themes such as human suffering. In this play, the seriousness helps to highlight the tension between characters. In addition, the seriousness of the play creates anticipation among the play’s audience.

Oedipus is the hero of the story and his ‘playing’ is quite important to the tragedy aspect of the play. According to the “Poetics”, for a tragedy to be successful the audience has to observe the hero go from happy to miserable. The hero’s misery has to be as a result of his own actions. This explains ‘Oedipus’s playing’ where he is happy and confident at first but then changes when the prophet accuses him of murder.

By the end of the play, Oedipus is a haggard, blind, and miserable man who is wishing for death. On the issue of recognition, Sophocles differs with Aristotle. In the play, the main hero exhibits reversal before his recognition is achieved. Aristotle argued that recognition always happens before reversal.

However, Oedipus’s character reverses in the scene where he is accused of murder while his recognition occurs in a later scene with the shepherd from Corinth. The recognition in this play is accompanied by the spectacle of Oedipus poking out his eyes and being banished from his own kingdom.

The theory of ritual origins came after Aristotle’s “Poetics”. The theory assumes that all drama traces its roots to religious-ritual drama. The theory is mostly focused on the development and elements of the Greek theatre. According to the theory of ritual origins, ancient Greek theatre featured deities either in the stage or at the audience’s seating area.

In the play “Oedipus the King”, there are instances of worship and initiation in the performance. For instance, in the first scene, the King refers to the young ones as ‘potential saviors of Cadmus’. In addition, in this scene, the king is against being worshiped like a god.

The drama also features other aspects of rituals such as the scene where the King tells the crowd that he has sent Creon to go and consult an oracle. Furthermore, the people of Thebes believe that the King is chosen by the gods and he is feared even by prophets. The children at the palace are considered pure and blameless creatures who can obtain mercy from the gods.

The rituals are important to the play’s development because they form an integral part of the play’s setting and character development. The play’s plot also depends on the outcome of some of these rituals and beliefs. By varying the play’s spectacle, these rituals help in shaping the play’s artistry.