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Sophocles's art of characterization in King Oedipus

Sophocles as a dramatist was, in many ways, different from Euripides, another great Greek tragedian. In terms of characterization the two dramatists are quite different. Whereas Euripides portrayed characters 'as they were, Sophocles portrayed 'as they ought to be': Although both of their characters were flawed and committed crimes, the motives of Sophocles's characters tenderd to be more honourable, and appeared to be more concerned with the will of the gods rather than personal gain or vengeance. Sophocles tends to give his characters more heroic features, whereas Euripides is more concerned with portraying the human wealknesses of his characters. As a dramatist Sophocles always emphasizes the heroic qualities of a character and his ability to learn and change accordingly. His characters are not static of flat rather dymamic and possess the ability to change. In his Oedipus Rex Sophocles has drawn his characters with utmost care. Not only the protagonist but also all the other characters are meticulously drawn. The dramatist has made all his characters integral part of the play. Oedipus is the protagonist of the play king  Oedipus. The character of Oedipus is considered by many to be the epitome of the tragic hero. Aristotle also admired Sophocles's characterization in king Oedipus as a classic tragic hero. The character of Oedipus is characteristic of Sophocles's intentions to portray his characters as They ought to be.'The character shows the typical elements of a Greek tragic hero; he is a good man that comes to a bad end due to a 'hamartia'. Sophcles always portrays his characters as honourable.He  through his artistic touches, manages to instill honour into even the  basest aspects of his characters. In the play King Oedipus Sophocles the dramatist delineates the character of Oedipus as honourable.

Oedipus is neither wholly good nor wholly bad, rather a mixture of both. His good qualities are so prominent that when at the end of the play he suffers ignominiously, the audience is able to pity him for his misfortune and recognize his heroism in placing the city first in his priorities. The downcast man that we witness at the end of the play is almost unrecognizable in comparison to the strong and confident leader that opened the play by addressing the city "I, Oedipus,/ Whose name is known afar." The Oedipus in the last scene is very different from the Oedipus in the first few scenes of the play. In the last scene, after the dreadful revelation of the terrifying facts of his life, Oedipus appears a transformed man. From a prideful, heroic king at the beginning of the play, Oedipus becomes a condemned but humble man. Through the complete humbling of such a proud man, Sophocles shows us a man who, despite the adversity he is facing, is able to understand his duties as the once ruler of the city. Although he is worthy of the pity of the audience, he is still able to command their admiration as one who has recognized the fact that he must leave in order to protect his citizens, and despite his personal anguish, is still able to adhere to his earlier promises to both the citizens of Thebes and the Gods. It is in Oedipus's downfall that he becomes a true hero, casting aside his personnel trauma in order to bring in to affect his decrees for Thebes. Sophocles, in his portrayal of Oedipus, show us a character who, although flawed, is heroic enough to admit his faults. He truly regrets his mistake and ill-fortune at the end of the play, showing a heroic man portrayed as he should be. In Sophocles's plays all the secondary characters are also thoroughly drawn. They are sharply defined individuals. Each has a function partly determined in advance by the legend. But these characters are so broadly and carefully drawn that they contribute a feeling of authentic humanity to the play and heighten its intense emotional effect. Sophocles draws Jocasta as a conventional loving wife. She gains in dramatic interest because of her relationship with Oedipus. Her fate seems to be intractably tied with the fate of the protagonist. Jocasta is queenly, but at the same time without being less heroic she is womanly and warm too. She possesses courage and talent to handle a repulsive situation. She confidently intervenes when Oedipus and Creon run into a haughty argument. Though religious she is often skeptical about oracles and Teiresias's words. However, her skepticism may have sprung from her own immediate situation, from her desire to protect Oedipus. Towards the end of the play Jocasta frantically  bemoans her fate and finally commits suicide. Creon is Oedipus's brother-in-law and he is drawn as an honourable character. Oedipus feels threatened by Creon and believes that he covets the throne. However, Creon appears a sensible and reasonable man. At the end of the play, after Oedipus has blinded himself, Creon becomes king and acts with commits suicide.

Creon is Oedipus's brother-in-law and he is drawn as an honourable character. Oedipus feels threatened by Creon and believes that he covets the throne. However, Creon appears a sensible and reasonable man. At the end of the play, after Oedipus has blinded himself, Creon becomes king and acts with compassion towards the repentant Oedipus, leading him into the palace and then, as Oedipus requests-and Apollo has ordained-into exile. The character of Teiresias is important in the context of the play Sophocles has given this blind prophet a significant role. He, early in the play, foreshadows the catastrophic outcome of the play. He is also a valiant character. When Oedipus accuses Teiresias of being an enemy for not responding, he remains calm and collected. Significantly, Teiresias is also the first character in the play to question Oedipus's assumption that he knows his parentage and to tell him that he has committed atrocities that he does not yet know are his own. He tells Oedipus that he will become blind and poor, that Oedipus is himself Laius's murderer, and that he will learn that he has fathered children with his mother. While Teiresias's presence on stage is brief, as a prophet representing the god Apollo he remains one of the most powerful characters in the play.

 The minor characters, though play significant roles, are not fully developed in the play. The Chorus, a group of elders, acts like an actor taking part in the action of the play. Its role is significant. It prays, sings and frequently talks to the protagonist. Messengers were common devices used in Greek drama. They were often used to relate action that occurred offstage or to summarize events that have taken place between acts or scenes.  But, in King Oedipus messengers play more important roles. Oedipus learns from the Corinthian messenger that Polybus was not his father; the messenger himself had been given Oedipus as an infant by one of Laius's men. He causes the shepherd who left Oedipus to die to come in and testify that Oedipus is Laius's son. After Oedipus's opening lines, the Priest of Zeus is the next character in the play to speak, and he does so as a religious leader and elder representative of the people of Thebes. He praises Oedipus, who has solved the riddle of the Sphinx, for his wisdom and ability to improve their lives, and asks of him, on behalf of the people, swiftly and decisively to act and end the suffering. The old shepherd testifies that Oedipus is Laius's son. From his statement Oedipus realizes his identity and his crimes of patricide and incest. Throughout his plays, Sophocles portrayed his characters as they should be; heroic, honourable and pious, and even the flaws of these characters do not detract from the fact that they are true tragic heroes, as their motives remain honourable. All Sophoclean characters seem to belong to a higher caste, with astounding heroic natures. All the characters are essential and play vital roles in bringing about the final outcome of the play. Omitting any character would destroy the structure of the play.


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