Does Oedipus And Othello Fit Aristotle's Definition Of A Hero? Why or Why Not?

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Does Oedipus And Othello Fit Aristotle's Definition Of A Hero? Why or Why Not?


The term hero has different meanings to different people. Some look at it basing on the onset of events while others look at it considering the outcome of a certain happening. Aristotle has his own definition of a hero that may make a character to either be qualified or disqualified to be a hero. There are some distinctive features that an individual has to posses for them to qualify to be called heroes. These qualities include an individual who finds out that what happens to him is a result of the decisions that he made, whether the results are positive or negative (Hatlen, 25). Such a person may have nothing to regret about since he contributed to what happened. A hero has the ability to foresee his failures due to the actions that he takes. He at times does things for adventure and believes in failing through trying rather than having never tried.

The downfall of a hero does not necessarily mean his end, he has the ability to recollect himself and make things to work out positively. A hero is either born noble or made. Aristotle also believes that a hero is a learner, every mistake that he makes is turned out to be a lesson that he purposes not to repeat. In his journey, a hero is usually faced with situations and circumstances that require him to make a very tough decision (Hatlen, 150). A hero undergoes a series of suffering that is sure to bear him good fruit; he is usually not bothered about his sufferings but the desire to obtain what he wants. Some of the experiences that heroes go through are supernatural and require some spiritual inspiration and strength. There are few female heroines and the ones that exist are treated with high regard. Looking at this description it can be easier for us to tell whether Oedipus and Othello qualify to be called heroes. We will look at the characters and their features to see if they meet any of the aforementioned qualifications.


Oedipus was born to a king of Thebes who had stayed for long without having a child. He and his wife visited a witch doctor in their effort to consult about why they had no child even after several years of marriage. The witchdoctor instead gave them a prophecy that if they get a son, he will kill his father and sleep with his mother. After some time, Oedipus was born and the parents were uncomfortable with him due to the prophecy that was foretold about him (Hatlen, 75). They decided to get rid of the child by tying his legs and commanding their shepherd boy to kill him. This act was however not viewed right by him and he hence handed over the child to somebody else to take care of him. Later on Oedipus grows up and is curious to know who his real father was after being told that the person taking care of him is not the father. He starts on a journey in search of his father and on the way; he encounters a man of whom he has no idea that he is the father. They engage in a quarrel, which makes Oedipus to kill him. He continues with his journey where he lands to his home unaware. He becomes intimate with his mother without his idea and sleeps with her. He later on came to discover that the person he killed was his real father and the woman he has been keeping as his wife is actually his mother. The prophecy is hence fulfilled and makes Oedipus uncomfortable about his life. He becomes even more frustrated when his mother kills herself; he scorched his eyes with pins from his mother’s clothes and consequently died blind.

From this summary, Oedipus may be considered a hero to a certain extent but disqualified considering his tragic end. He is a hero because of the mysterious way in which he survived. He was destined to die at a tender age but somehow the shepherd boy rescued him. Oedipus purposes to begin a journey in search of his father that he has no idea of. He is not relieved with the fact that he has been taken good care of by a foster parent; there is a desire within him to know whom his biological father is and therefore takes such a risky journey (Hatlen, 100). On his way, he encountered many obstacles that were probably to hinder him from achieving his goal. This does not make him give up; on the contrary, he handles the challenges whereby he killed those that seemed to block him completely. He is also faced with other misfortunes when he discovers that he had just fulfilled a prophecy that was pronounced about him by a witch doctor and becomes even more confused. The fact that Oedipus was not able to handle the tragedies that later on befall him disqualifies him to be a hero. As a hero, he was not meant to be overwhelmed by the fact that he had killed his father and slept with his mother. Considering the circumstances in which the events occurred, it was not his fault, neither anybody’s fault. He dies and leaves his family under the care of a foster parent something that should not be expected of a hero.


Othello is a Venice soldier who worked for the Venice army. In his duty he encounters Desdemona who happens to be the daughter of a prominent Venetian senator. With the knowledge that he will never be allowed to marry her if he followed the correct procedure, he elopes with her after he was deployed to cypress. Othello had a friend Iago who manipulated him and later convinced him that his wife was having an extra marital affair. This angers Othello into jealousy and makes him to kill his wife. When the investigations were later carried out it was discovered that Desdemona was not unfaithful to him. Othello realised that he was deceived by Iago and made him kill the wife he loved. Faced with loneliness, guilt and numerous court cases, he ended his life by committing suicide (Hatlen, 55). From this narration, Othello can be refereed to as a hero because he managed to marry the wife of a prominent senator. He was determined to have the girl despite him knowing how difficult it would be. He does not however qualify to be a hero according to Aristotle’s definition of a hero because he did not counterattack his circumstances well. He should have taken some measures to find out whether the adulterous allegations about his wife were true or false. He was hasty in making his decision and thus suffering for it. After realizing his failures and mistakes, he did not rise up from them. Just like Oedipus, he was overwhelmed by the circumstances that surrounded him and thus resolving to killing himself.


Even though Oedipus and Othello had their own series of events that made their lives to be miserable, they had an opportunity to find solution to their failures and thus leaving positive lives. They both had a promising future considering the decisions that they made. However, their decisions proved to be painful as they landed them into unbearable circumstances. They were overwhelmed as they came to discover that what they did was not actually right. Considering that their folly made them to hurt and kill the people that meant a lot to them, they had no more reason to leave (Hatlen 43). They opted to take their lives away in their effort to forget their past. Aristotle defines a hero as a person who embraces his failures and mistakes and learns from them. They are also ready to suffer for their mistakes but do not succumb to them. This clearly suggests that only a small percentage of the lives that Oedipus and Othello lived can qualify them to be heroes. A hero is supposed to leave behind a good reputation but what they left behind is the misery that they caused to themselves and their families.



Works Cited

Hatlen, T. Drama: principles & plays. California: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967.

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