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Lear and Oedipus

‘Out of tragedy comes self knowledge.’ Do you find this to be true in King Lear and Oedipus the King?
Literature Essay

  • Assessment: Essay
  • Mark: A
  • Year: 2004
  • Wordcount: 1670

A tragedy is not only an imitation of life in general but an imitation of an action, as Aristotle defined it. Aristotle formulates his ideas in his Poetics, where Oedipus is the ultimate example of tragic art. The terms of self-recognition and self-knowledge in Oedipus as well as in King Lear are very significant and are discussed by Aristotle in his Poetics. For Aristotle the Reversal, the Recognition and the Suffering are key terms of a complex tragedy. The human instinct to seek knowledge and to know the individual character is essential to understand their actions (Aristotle, 1-49).
The plays show that King Lear and King Oedipus have to find out that self-recognition and self-knowledge are very important keys to understand their individual behaviour and as a consequence their lives. They learn by painful suffering that wealth and kingship means nothing and that both are only common men in the end. So all three key terms of Aristotle’s complex tragedy could be found in the plays: reversal, recognition and suffering.

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