November 28, 2008
Comparison of Oedipus and Hippolytus
Euripides and his contemporary Sophocles were two great tragedians of classical Athens, who have strikingly different styles which both are great in their own right. Specifically, these differences can be illustrated in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos and Euripides’ Hippolytus. These are two great tragedies that share a great common thread, but each have strikingly different approaches and developments to share these similarities.
Sophocles’ main character of Oedipus, literally meaning “swollen foot”, is a classic depiction of a tragic hero. He is intrinsically good, but makes a poor decisions based on a lack of knowledge coupled with a basic human trait, taken to an extreme degree. His hamartia, or error in judgment, falls in his rigidity which surfaces itself many times in the tragedy. From his initial departure from his birth parents, Oedipus is put into a whirlwind of secrets, mysteries, and betrayal. In addition to satisfying these critical traits the focus of the play lies on a moral question with the main character as a person of significant importance. The audience and Teiresias alone know of Oedipus’ past, and such a fact puts the audience seemingly in a position of power. The fact that much of the story continues to draw on his hidden past and unreal present, brings a burden back to Teiresias and the spectators multiple times. Generally a sense of pity is felt at such times, and extremely when he blinds himself when he finds out who he really is. A strong irony is weaved by Sophocles, showing the man that finally saw the truth, or light, can no longer see anything at all. Finally, Oedipus’ social stature in the play emphasizes the importance of his decisions, and the fact that they have implications on many others.
Hippolytus, the protagonist in Euripides’ tragedy has many similarities; while additionally it has some striking contrasts to Oedipus. The play’s...