Essay, Research Paper
Oedipus the King and Othello the Moor
When you read the works of different authors you always seem to notice different similarities between them. Among those authors are Shakespeare and Sophocles who show many different similarities between their works. We will now use one of Shakespeare?s and Sophocles plays, Othello and Oedipus the King, and discuss the similarities or/and differences they have between them. We will also compare, focus, discuss and explain the tragic endings, mood, plot, the concept of fate and destiny, and the qualities of the main characters, Othello and Oedipus and also the irony, and the themes in each play.
The plays of Oedipus the King and Othello both compare when it comes to their tragic endings. They both are seen as ?tragedies? because of their tragic events and endings. In Oedipus the King, there are many events that happen during the play that are tragedies. Such events like the first event, happens in the beginning of the play. That event is the plague that has struck the city of Thebes. ?Our city reeks with the smoke of burning incense, rings with cries for the healer and wailing for the dead.? (25,4-5). Oedipus is describing what the play has done to his city and its people. Even before this tragedy there was a previous one that had occurred before but was ignored and that was the murder of King Laius. This tragedy is very important and essential to this play because if it never happened the story would have been very different today. If Creon never returned with the oracle?s answer about the murder of Laius, he would have never tried to find out the truth about his past and connect this tragedy to the tragedy that he went through when he was young. The worst tragedy occurred at the end of the play when Oedipus is left with no wife, no sight and facing the fact that he are never going to see his children and Thebes ever again. This is a tragedy because there is death, sorrow and pain all throughout the play. From the beginning to the end we can see the signs that this play was going to be a tragedy. Oedipus himself was a tragedy. Othello is also a tragedy, but did not have many tragic events as there been in Oedipus the King. One tragic event was when Iago with his sneaky ways, got Cassio drunk and then kills Montano so that he can blame it on Cassio who because of this event has lost his title as Oedipus?s general. The ending was also a big tragedy, just like Odepus, Othello faced the truth which at the end hurt him so much and caused him to first kill Desdemona and then kill himself. He found out the awful truth like Oedipus did. ?O Spartan dog, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea; Look on the tragic loading of this led; This is thy work.? (514, 420-421) Lodovico here is describing how Othello has come to this tragic end.
The Mood of both plays is also somewhat similar. The Mood in Oedipus the King from the beginning to the end is devastation, destruction, and gloom because it begins with suffering from the plague that is going on in Thebes and the mystery of the unsolved murder of Liaus. The whole city of Thebes seems to suffer right along with Oedipus and the royal family. There is a somber, sad, and disturbed mood throughout the entire play. The mood in Othello throughout the play is somber and tragic. Iago is the person who causes this tragic gloom that is, until we see some comedy provided by Roderigo and the clown.
The plots of both the plays are entirely different, the play of Oedipus the King is set in the city of Thebes and there is a plague that has swept the city because Laius murderer has gone unpunished as the play progresses, the drama begins to unfold. The plot begins to take a new turn when the messenger brings news that Polybus is dead. Because of this, Oedipus wants to find out the truth about his parents. The plot of Othello is in the classic form of a Shakespearean tragedy. It takes place at first in Venice and then at the end in Cyprus where all the action takes place. The entire play revolves around Iago filling Othello?s poor mind with lies. Othello easily falls prey to Iago who, manages to make Othello?s jealous side come out. As a result, Othello loses his self-control and logic. From then on Othello starts to go down a downward spiral, with so much anger and grief inside of him.
The concept of fate can be discussed in both of the plays. In Oedipus the King, the gods already set Oedipus fate. No matter what Oedipus would have done, it would have turned out the same way at the end. The Gods knew about Oedipus ever since he was born and they seemed to be taking pleasure in watching Oedipus life fall apart. He was fated to perform such horrible acts and his behavior seemed to seal his fate. Othello on the other hand, made his own fate. There was no one controlling him other than Iago who was messing with his mind. No one knew what would become of Othello after he is tricked to believe that his wife is cheating on him. Othello chose his own path; no one didn?t choose for him what would happen to him in the future.
The characteristics of each character are different and alike. Oedipus is a character ruled by fate. He is very smart as we can see when he has the smartness to solve the riddle of the sphinx. He is also an intelligent man, good king, and an overall good human being with great qualities for a good man. He is an ideal king because he really cares for his city as we can see in the beginning where Oedipus is willing to do anything to save his city from the plague. He is an overall good human being because he is shows quality of caring, dependable, and many more. One bad quality that he has is that he is vulnerable. When he first heard the rumor that he was going to marry his mother and kill his father that ate at him and this caused him to find out the truth no matter what. Othello is a very vulnerable character. He is so vulnerable that Iago takes advantage of him every way possible. He is a black man with a noble nature and in the beginning of the play he starts off as being calm, patient, self-confident, intelligent and even romantic towards his wife. As the play progresses, Othello major flaw is now jealously. He turns to an enraged man vowed on vengeance by the end of the play. He losses his mind and turns into a whole different person. He also has a bad quality and that is being very stupid because he was easily tricked into believing that his wife was cheating on him. If Iago easily fooled him then he could have been fooled by anybody.
The major themes in both the plays are totally different. The major theme in Othello is the power of jealousy. He is a way jealous person and because of that he easily falls prey to Iago?s scheming ways. His mind is filled with raging jealousy and it leads to the deaths of all the people he knew at the end. The entire revolves around Othello and his jealousy. There is another theme in Othello and that is the power of deception, which is mostly shown through Iago. Iago vows revenge after he is passed over by Othello for promotion. To get him back for making Cassio a general, Iago decides to deceive Othello into believing that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. He also deceives Roderigo by making him believe that he can really have Desdemona for himself because soon she will grow tired of Othello. Iago?s deceptions, moves the plot of the play forward to the tragic ending. The major theme is Oedipus the King, is fate, which is explored throughout the play. His behavior and the acts he performs determined his fate. Oedipus himself set his fate into motion by following up the rumors of him marrying his mother and killing his father. By going up against the gods, Oedipus fate was already sealed and determined. One minor theme is the concept of self- knowledge. Othello?s was very curious about his heritage and because of this, he discovers the painful truth of who he is. Oedipus is given sight of his self-knowledge at the end of the play even though he is left with no sight at all.
Another concept that can also be seen and discussed is the concept of destiny. Was it Oedipus destiny to marry his mother and kill his father? Or was it Othello?s destiny to kill his wife and kill him? When we read Oedipus the king, we do not really know if it was Oedipus destiny to kill his father and marry his mother but towards the play we see that the Gods had already set Oedipus fate and destiny. They knew everything before it actually happened for example, they knew when Oedipus was a baby that he would grow up to marry his mother and kill his father. So the Gods set Oedipus fate and destiny. Othello on the other hand made his own destiny and fate, nobody knew that at the end he would kill his wife and kill himself thus leaving a pile of dead bodies. As far as Othello knew he was going to make his own destiny by bringing to justice his wife who in his eyes thought that she was cheating on him with Cassio.
What is ironic in Oedipus the King, is when he loses his sight, he actually gains more insight into himself that is, and he knows more about himself than he never knew before. What is ironic in Othello is that Othello doesn?t find out the truth until its too late and Desdemona is already dead.
So by comparing both Oedipus the King and Othello we find out that that both of the plays are tragic plays. Othello is a tragedy because of the many tragic events that occur during the play like for example, when Iago kills Montano just for the pleasure of blaming it on Cassio. This play is also a tragedy because of its tragic ending. Oedipus the King, is also a tragedy because it too has many tragic events that are occurring during the play for example, as the play begins there is a serious plague that has swept the city of Thebes and because of this many people are dying and suffering. The Mood in both plays is somewhat similar. In Oedipus the King, there is devastation, destruction, and gloom throughout the play because of the plague and in Othello the mood is somber and tragic and it is because of Iago that the tragic gloom hangs around the entire play. The plots of both the plays are entirely different. In Oedipus the King, the drama unfolds as the plague is all over the city and the murder of Liaus is the mystery that Oedipus is trying to solve. The plot of Othello is a perfect example of a Shakespearean tragedy. The entire play revolves around Iago with his evil and selfish ways. The concept of fate can be discussed in both plays. The gods already set Oedipus fate so anything he did would have not mattered. Othello made his own fate; he chose his own path and ran straight into it. Both Othello and Oedipus have different personalities. Oedipus is intelligent and a good king while Othello is venerable and caring. The theme of Othello revolves around Othello and finding out the truth about his past. Oedipus the king theme involves Oedipus and how his fate was already sealed. The concept of destiny is also another concept discussed in both plays. Was it Oedipus destiny to marry his mother and kill his father and was it Othello?s destiny to kill his wife and kill himself. Both of the plays show irony. It was ironic in Oedipus the king when Oedipus losses his sight and actually gains sight to see things about himself that he never knew before. So all in all they are many similarities and differences in each of these plays.
Marra, James, Zelnick, Stephen, and Mark T. Mattson. ?Othello.? Paths to Civilization.
Vol1. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt publishing company, 1998. 455-514.
Marra, James, Zelnick, Stephen, and Mark T. Mattson. ?Oedipus the King.? Paths to Civilization. Vol 1. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1998. 17-50.