Oedipus Vs Pentheus Essay, Research Paper
Oedipus and Pentheus are both tragic Greek characters who help create their own endings. Through their character’s flaws and blindness to what is going on around each of them, the story develops. The only consistent character in both plays who is able to understand past and present dangers is Teiresias, the blind prophet.
Oedipus thinks his human powers can match anything put in front of him. He forces other characters to tell him things, which again creates his tragic ending. (O790) Oedipus by not knowing his identity seems to create his own tragedy. Throughout the entire play, he is blind to everything people are telling him. (O320) He continues to badger Teiresias to answer things that Oedipus does not believe is true. If he only stopped, asking questions his fate might have been different. (O385) Because of these answers, he begins to suspect that people are plotting against him. He feels that he is above such lowly deeds. His own conceit and blind confidence in himself helps him continue towards a tragic ending. (O452-460) While Teiresias was predicting the future of Oedipus, he should have been smart enough to listen. He should have started to change his ways before he ended up destroying himself. Oedipus’ guilt was beginning to play tricks on his mind. At the beginning of the play, Oedipus was on the top of the mortal world. Now he is finding out the truth about his past and his world starts to crumble around him.
(O805-830) When Oedipus comes upon a carriage with a man and his servants he lets his own ego get in his way. When either refuse to allow them to pass first, Oedipus kills all of them. His own stubbornness and pride again kept him from changing his future. Since this was his father he murdered, the myth continues. If he had just let them pass and gone his way, his future may have been altered.
Pentheus like Oedipus was taken with his own powers. He could not believe anything could harm him. (B270) Pentheus in his own conceit thinks he can do anything. He feels he is so powerful that no man is above him. (B476) He is not able to see that Dionysus is a god because he is in human form. Pentheus needs to see everything before he can accept it. (B255) By Pentheus agreeing to dress up like a woman, he is asking for a tragic ending. He now begins to listen to Dionysus who he had bound with chains before. He shows how gullible he is, to think Dionysus will now help him. He cannot see himself being set up to take a large fall. (B310) When Teiresias tells Pentheus “Do not be so certain that power is what matters in life,” Pentheus still feels confident. Pentheus was doomed because he did not believe other peoples word about the power of Dionysus.
Teiresias was the only character to be able to see things as they were. Even though physically weak, old, and blind he seemed to be mentally strong. (B190) This passage shows that being blind and feeble does not mean that one can not enjoy life. He was able to talk about the future as easily as the past. (B360) Teiresias is able to feel that the gods are more powerful and we as mortals must obey their pleasures. In our experiences, we generally think of blindness as a weakness. In both these tragedies, Teiresias’ blindness became his strength.
In Oedipus, while he continues to ask questions the blind prophet was the only one trying to stop him. (O413-420) Teiresias says that Oedipus is blind for not knowing who his parents are. It should be most important for mortals to know who we are and where we come from. (330-345) This is the first time we see Oedipus loosing his temper. This is a new character trait that develops. Teiresias tells Oedipus “it is not fate that I should be your ruin/Apollo is enough.” Oedipus’ pride is hurt during this conversation and he is at the end of his patience. Oedipus is not so much challenging fate as oblivious to it. He feels his well being is not as important as the safety of Thebes. He again show anger when provoked.
In Greek tragedies, you can find a common bond between characters. These characters are responsible for their own fates. In these two plays, both Sophocles and Euripides created a story based on this. I have tried to show that Pentheus and Oedipus could have changed their fate by reacting different at different points during their lives. Each chose the path, which became the tragic ending. “Both characters attempt to engage fate in a fight for truth, to win the battle only to loose the war.”
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