Study Guide

The Story of Oedipus Oedipus

Oedipus

It's safe to say that this guy is one of the most talked about of all the peeps in Greek mythology. You can't kill your dad and sleep with your mother without gaining a little notoriety, we guess. Many have spent a lot of time trying to identify what if anything is Oedipus's hamartia (aka tragic flaw). There are a bunch of theories out there, including a violent temper and hubris (aka pride). There's also the idea out there that many people's idea of hamartia is based on a bad translation and that the whole debate it off-track. Click here for more Shmoopy coverage of the whole discussion.

There's no doubt that Oedipus makes some mistakes along the way. (Join the club.) Overall, though, this guy is a hero, through and through. When the Oracle tells him that he's destined to kill his father and sleep with his mother, he vows never to return to Corinth where he was in line to inherit the throne from Polybus, the guy he thought was his dad. Sure, he ends up killing his real father Laius and sleeping with Jocasta, his true mother, but it's not like he knew that's what was going down.

When he finds out that the deadly Sphinx is terrorizing Thebes, he steps up to the plate and punks her down by solving her riddle. After he's made king of Thebes, he does everything to stop the plague that's... well... plaguing the city, even though that eventually means his own exile. Sure, Oedipus does some messed-up things in ignorance, but all in all he seems like a stand-up guy, who always tried to do the right thing. Maybe, it isn't Oedipus who's tragically flawed; maybe it's the world he's born into.

Click here for much more on the unluckiest dude of all time.

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