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Group task: Hamartia and Hubris in Oedipus Rex

Group member:
Muhammad Nadeem
Sidra Islam
Muhammad Yaqoob
Irfan Ullah
Amir Hamza
Drama is a classical literary genre involving the level of tent, transformation and
performance. In other words it is a composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or
character or it tell a story usually involving conflict and emotion through action and
dialogues and typically designed for theatrical performance.
Drama has its two major types namely, tragedy and comedy along with its well-known
Tragedy has its elements of which the most important one is a tragic and sad ending.in his
book “Poetics”, Aristotle the Greek philosopher state the important characteristics of
tragedy and a tragic hero. For him the tragic hero must not be evil and be kind at heart. He
also must be from noble and respectful family. He must be enjoying his reputation and
prosperity. There is a dramatic irony in a dramatic tragedy where the characters lead to
their fate unknowingly.
The two terms Hamartia and Hubris shapes the personality of ‘Tragic Hero’, he
unfortunately suffers more than he deserve and the audience feel pity and fear for him.

Hamartia and Hubris:

Hamartia is Greek term that describes the “tragic Flaw” of the hero of Greek tragedy.
Hamartia carry a complex meaning which includes ‘sin’ or ‘error’ , ‘trespass’ and ‘missing the
mark’. The protagonist mistake has an integral part in the plot of the tragedy. The
misfortune of the protagonist is determined by nature of his/her particular kind of hamartia.
Hubris is the extreme pride and arrogance shown by a character which ultimately brings
about his downfall. Hubris is typically a flaw in the character’s personality who overestimate
his power and crosses all lines of human codes.
Both hubris and hamartia are of significant importance in Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’ and Sophocles
‘Oedipus Rex’. The word hamartia for the first time appeared in Aristotle’s definition of
“There remains the man who occupies the mean between the saintliness and depravity.
He is not extra ordinary in virtue and righteousness, and yet does not fall into bad fortune
because of evil and wickedness, but because of some hamartia of the kind found in men of
higher reputation and good fortune, such as Oedipus and Thyestes and famous men of similar
families.” (Aristotle, the Poetics, 1453, 9. 7-12)
Aristotle distinguish hamartia from moral failing. He means it as error of some judgment. He
does not deny everything about the connection of hamartia with hero’s moral feelings.
“It may be accompanied by moral imperfection, and in the purest tragic situation the suffering
hero is not to be morally blamed.”
On the other hand, hubris is extreme pride and arrogance shown by a character which
causes him to fall. Aristotle discusses hubris in Rhetoric 1378 b. “Doing and saying things at
which the victims incurs shame, not in order that one may achieve anything other than what
is done, but simply to get pleasure from it, for those who act in return for something do not
commit hubris, the revenge themselves is the cause of pleasure for those who commit hubris
is that they harming people, they think themselves superior when they commit hubris.”

Role of hamartia and hubris in Oedipus Rex:

In Oedipus case that he first kill his father and then marries his mother, from whom he also
got children. He also has excessive pride (hubris) when he refers to accept his fate and
attempts to flee it multiple times. He insult and banishes the one that try to warn him about
the prophecy. Both his hubris and hamartia causes his ultimate downfall. He take out his
eyes when his wife /mother commits suicide. Oedipus is a tragic hero who makes several
mistakes. He is egoistic, arrogant, reckless, over curious, stubborn and outrageous.
Oedipus was born in ancient Thebes in the king Laius and his wife Jocasta .upon his birth
there was prophecy that he would murder his father and wed his mother due to which he
was attempted to be left for death by his parents .Oedipus survives this attempt and
manages to be the sin of the king of Corinth. Later when he learns about the prophecy, he
leaves Corinth and his parents and travel to Thebes. On the way he kills some travelers in
rage one of whom happened to be his real father. He saves the Thebans from the curse of
the Sphinx who had previously killed all who had failed to answer her riddles. For this
achievement of his, Oedipus is made the king and he then marries Jocasta. Both of the
oracles are turned into reality.
According to Aristotle’s definition of hamartia Sophocles hero Oedipus who is a great man,
commits an error which leads him to his downfall. Many may argue for those error to be a
tragedy to be a true one, it is necessary for the hero to falter at some points to meet his
In the case of Oedipus, the first hamartia of his is to kill his biological father. He does this
when he is travelling from Corinth to Thebes when he is informed about the Oracles. He
supposedly his avoiding the prophecy but in his ignorance, he directly falls into the tract in
the first part of the diction is eventuated. Along with his father, he also murders his
companions and only one survives.
This unsolved murder case causes the people of Thebes to suffer and faces death by the
hand of the Sphinx. There supplications and cries for help finally reached to Oedipus’s ear
and he responds with a positive attitude as mentioned in the beginning of the play when he
addresses the people of Thebes and his children and offers them his help(page 23,line 1-13)

The priest explains the whole situation to him and he assures them of his co-operations.
Oedipus then gets involve in a bitter conversation with the blind Prophet Teiresias (page -34 to
38). In a dialogue line 316 the Prophet blatantly tells Oedipus that
“You are the cursed polluter of this land”
Which enrage him and he says,
“You dare to say it! Have no shame at all?”
“And do you expect to escape the consequences” (Line- 317 to 318)
Oedipus accuses Teiresias that he lies because he is told by Creon to do so. He says the
Creon is after the throne and thus as plotting the dethrone him with his false accusation.
(Page- 36, line- 348 to 353). He question Creon of his loyalty and offers him no chance to
justify or defend himself. Thus, he loses and allay and a friend.
Oedipus unknowingly had killed his father and then took the other steps unknowingly which
ultimately led him to meet his fate. This is the perfect example of hamartia explained by
Aristotle in his Poetics.
Oedipus passes on from the great suspicion that who is the actual sinner? Is unknowing of
the fact and utters sounds which shows his hamartia and hubristic character.
“To test me first go to the Pythian shrine;
Ask if the message I brought was true.
Second; prove me guilty of any compact with the soothsayer; then take me and condemn to
My voice will join with you in the sentence.”
The dialogues also reveals the fact that Oedipus is also a noble too, because it also shows his
values for the acceptation of guilt.
At the same time Jocasta is also the character in the play escaping from her fate and
denying the realty. As one of her dialogues shows her character of fear from fate, “no one
possesses the secret of divination.”
“I have proof the oracle given to the Laius from Phoebus, no; but from his minister, that he
should die by the hand of his son.
His child and mine what came of it?”
The quality of great tragedy shows that the error is the result of degradation of the noble
characters, Jocasta and her son/husband Oedipus.
Hubristic character of Oedipus is shown when he hears Teiresias “it was him who killed his
father and married his mother. “Oedipus while hearing this became furious and called the
Teiresias the liar.
“Do you think you can say this unpunished?”
Oedipus anger is so great that it turns him means and ready to kill others. He proceeds to
accuses Teiresias as a false prophet. He no longer wants advices from Apollo’s prophet he
“I did not know what nonsense you would speak, or I have hardly have sent for you”
The three main characters in the play Oedipus, Jocasta and Laius commits hubris. All three
of them thought they could escape fate and tried many things to alter what was already
written for them. All they could do was intend the time and nothing else.

Oedipus character’s flaw is ego. After being successful in making Thebes free from the curse
of Sphinx, his pride has boosted. He had become overconfident. He thought of himself; is
the one and only. This is made evident in the opening lines of the prologue when he states
“Here I am myself….
You all know me, the world know my fame; I am Oedipus”
Actually his conceit is the root cause of related problems. Among these are recklessness,
disrespect and stubbornness. When he made his proclamation and no one confesses to the
murder of Laius, Oedipus loses patience immediately. Later he displays a short temper to
“You, you scum of the earth……out with it, once and for all”
Later on he becomes suspicious that Creon and Teiresias are the master mind behind killing
of Laius. He strongly suspects the prophet which makes him disrespectful too. Out of
temperament and disrespect, he says,
“teiresias, enough ! Such filth from him? Insufferable …what, still alive? Get out...
Faster, back where you came from…vanish!”
He is an outrageous man and his way of treatment with Creon, Teiresias proves this point.
He kills five men, including his father, out of rage. Even after many years, he details that
incident with rage.
“I killed, kill them all” he says.
Oedipus never listened to the prophet and he never believed in his prophecy even at the
death of King Polybius. He does not have the sense to keep still,
“So! Jocasta; why, why you look to the prophet’s hearth….all those prophecies I feared
…they are nothing, worthless.”
He is overcurious which start with finding his parental identity with revealing his own
identity. Moreover, if he listen to the properly, the situation would have been totally
changed. The two major hamartia that proves his over curiousness and his outrageousness
is that he killed his father and married to his mother and totally ignored all the prophecies
of the prophet. After all this Oedipus admits that
“The hand that struck my eyes was mine...I did it all my self!”
Here he is not only referring to his self-infliction but also the series of events that’s lead to
his demise.
In a nutshell, there is much to learn from the example of hubris and hamartia as it perfectly
fits all the standards that Aristotle sets for a good tragedy. One can learn not only from the
major characters but from the minors one too such as, Teiresias , Creon and many more. It
interestingly unfolds the steps that take Oedipus toward his fate and uses clever words to
disguise hidden meaning in the text. It will keep on to be a perfect example of classical