In the tradition of Greek tragedy, the most important element is that of hubris, or excessive pride bringing about a fall. This element is best described in the phrase, "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud."
There are many who were laid low in the multitude of Greek tragedies. Oedipus, Antigone, and Bellerophon are but a few that come to mind, but there are innumerable others stretched across the panoply of theater in its early incarnation. And the common trope in those tragedies is that the main character becomes quite proud of his or her accomplishments and, as a result of that pride, makes mistakes that bring about their destruction or death.
Athens was, of course, the main center of early theater. It was also the main center of early philosophy, as the great thinkers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, made their names in Athens. Socrates, in fact, was in many ways the first philosopher of note, though he is known mostly through other people than by his own work. In fact, he never wrote anything down and left nothing tangible to posterity.
As a result of this, we don't know as much about him as we would like. We only know that he would teach his students a lot of things that went against the grain of contemporaneous thought. He was something of a rebel and a model of counter-culture at the time, which meant that he was very popular with the younger types. The older types resented him and his subversive influence on the young, but let it go for a while. Then something changed.
What changed is that one of Socrates' students went to the Oracle of Delphi and asked, "Is anyone wiser than Socrates?"
The answer came back, "No."
When Socrates heard this, he was rather surprised. He always taught his students that he, in fact, didn't know anything and, as a result, he was not wise at all, but a perfect fool. So, to find out from the Oracle that he was wiser than all others, that was not what he was expecting. So, Socrates decided to find out why he was wise.
To perform these investigations, Socrates determined that the best thing to do would be to question other people who were accounted wise and find out why he was wiser than them. So he commenced his investigations by asking wise men questions. He asked them questions about justice and bravery and all such topics and they gave him their answers. Then he refuted their answers, then asked them more questions, then refuted those answers again, and he kept doing that until he had utterly destroyed their ideas that the wise men gave him, making them look foolish.
The young men who followed Socrates were giddy at the idea that wise men could be made to look foolish, so they, of course, did the very same thing to many other of their elders, making them look foolish and really just annoying the heck out of anyone and everyone in Athens that they happened across.
Athens did not take kindly to this. So, they brought Socrates up on various charges that were, at best, a stretch, if not entirely untrue. However, they had to come up with something, as I doubt that Athens had a law against being a complete asshole, which it seems that Socrates was. In fact, there is the interesting fact of the voting pattern in the determination of guilt and the sentence handed down. The vote for whether or not Socrates was guilty was actually pretty close. However, it seems that, during the ancient Athenian version of the hearing for sentencing, Socrates was so irritating that many of the people who voted for "not guilty" voted for death over banishment, since the vote for sentencing wasn't all that close. Thus, the legendary tale of Socrates drinking the cup of hemlock and dying for being a philosopher who challenged the status quo. It probably had more to do with Socrates being an obnoxious blowhard who enjoyed annoying almost everyone he met to the point that they wished he was dead. But I don't have anything in particular to back to that up, so we can just throw that out there as another interesting but useless piece of conjecture about the past and nothing more.
However, toward that conjecture, I would like to point out one bit of information that I think displays the essential polarity of the tale of Socrates: that is the fact that nobody in the Greek world picked up on the striking tragedy that was the fall of Socrates. In fact, it has all the hallmarks of the greatest of Greek tragedies, but nobody at the time bothered to write that tragedy.
We should not just think of Socrates as that frail old man with the long, hoary beard of the ancients. We should also remember that he was a powerful, vigorous man who fought valiantly for the Athenian army in his youth. He was a fine soldier before he became a philosopher and he distinguished himself well. But he was also a deep thinker in his younger days, allowing him a mastery of all arts that we would all do well to emulate, not unlike Theseus.
However, Socrates was as vulnerable to hubris as any other man. For in his assumption of what the Oracle said, he fell under the sway of that destructive pride that felled so many on the Greek stage.
But, given that the above is true, I ask, is Socrates wiser than everyone else? For there could be many who are just as wise as Socrates. In fact, everyone could be just as wise as Socrates, and that answer would still be true.
But Socrates assumed that, because no one was wiser than he, he was wiser than everyone. Thus, he began infuriating everyone around him with his presumptions to wisdom and his willingness to show that he was wiser than everyone.
However, if it was true that Socrates was wiser than everyone, what happened when he came to the conclusion that he was wiser than everyone? He changed his philosophy that he was neither wise nor knowledgeable. Thus, by accepting that he was wiser than everyone, he left the very philosophy that made him the wisest of all, which made him no longer as wise as he was.
Then, no longer a wise man, he took pride in his wisdom. So he clung to his hubris and walked himself down the path of his own destruction, just as a tragic character would. Yet no one in Athens picked up on this clear and easy tragedy, showing just how polarized opinions were regarding the man. His followers could not allow that he destroyed himself. His detractors could not feel sorry for him, even in death.