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Word Count: 1,252
If we give ourselves up to a full sympathy with the hero there is no question that the Oedipus Rex fulfills the function of a tragedy and arouses fear and pity in the highest degree But the modern reader coming to the classic drama not entirely for the purpose of enjoyment will not always surrender himself to the emotional effect He is apt to worry about Greek fatalism and the justice of the downfall of Oedipus and finding no satisfactory solution for these intellectual difficulties loses half the pleasure that the drama was intended to produce Perhaps we trouble ourselves too much concerning the Greek notions of fate in human life We are inclined to regard them with a lively antiquarian interest as if they were something remote and peculiar yet in reality the essential difference between these notions and the more familiar ideas of a later time is so slight that it need not concern the naive and sympathetic reader After all the fundamental aim of the poet is not to teach us about these matters but to construct a tragedy which shall completely fulfill its proper function Nevertheless for the student of literature who feels bound to solve the twofold problem How is the tragedy of Oedipus to be reconciled with a rational conception of life and How does Oedipus himself comply with the Aristotelian requirements for a tragic hero there is a simple answer in the ethical teaching of the great philosopher in whose eyes the Oedipus Rex appears to have been well-nigh a perfect tragedy In other words let us compare the ideal of the Ethics with the ideal of the Poetics Aristotle finds the end of human endeavor to be happiness that is an unhampered activity of the soul in accordance with true reason throughout a complete lifetime This happiness as Aristotle discovered by careful observation during the length of his thoughtful life does not result principally from the
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