Compare and Contrast: the Downfalls of Oedipus and Othello

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Compare and Contrast Essay: The Downfalls of Oedipus and Othello

Oedipus and Othello were both honorable and heroic men that became the victims of two tragic downfalls that can be compared and contrasted with each other. Sophocles, the writer of Oedipus the King, and Williams Shakespeare, the writer of Othello, were both enormously influential playwrights of their respective generations and their legacy continues today. The two playwrights made their masterpieces during different eras; Sophocles life coincided with the Golden Age of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare worked during the Elizabethian period. Despite being born about 2,000 years apart, their works are similar in that they could both describe and make the tragic downfalls of two distinguished men come to life. The downfalls of Othello and Oedipus can be compared and contrasted through their pride, tragic flaws, and fate.

Pride is a characteristic that generally has good connotations, but in the case of a tragic hero it only makes the downfall more tragic. Both Othello and Oedipus were very prideful men prior to their downfalls. They were men of extraordinary accomplishments and they each possessed the ability to be a good leader. Othello was an upstanding citizen who was known for his military success. He is somewhat of a mystical character because he came from a foreign land where he experienced adventures that astounded the Venetians. Oedipus was also somewhat of a Renaissance man. He, like Othello, was known for his military success, but his true pride came from his position as a wise and confident king of Thebes. Oedipus stated, "I Oedipus whom all men call the great." (Sophocles line 7) Each man's pride can be considered a catalyst and early stage to their respective downfalls, but in different ways. Othello, as a prideful man, thought it necessary to kill his own wife because she had not been loyal. On the other hand, Oedipus would not let the murderer of Laius go undiscovered, because the plague was tarnishing his image. In the end, the investigation would prove costly when it would be responsible for revealing the truth behind his awful fate. Pride cannot be considered a tragic flaw because any man with the positions of either Othello or Oedipus would posses this trait, but it most definitely makes a fall from grace more difficult to cope with.

Othello and Oedipus are traditional tragic heroes, because they both possess tragic flaws. Iago has no problem fitting Othello into his plot, the cause of Othello's downfall, because Othello is easily persuaded and has an unsuspecting nature. Iago was aware of this and expressed this knowledge in the quote, "The moor is of a free and open nature that thinks men that but seem to be so…" (Shakespeare line 442-443) Time and time again Othello believes Iago over anyone else and continuously gives into Iago's malicious traps. This quality is an encumbrance to Othello and is why he so easily believes Iago when he tells him of an untrue affair between Desdemona and Cassio. Using Othello's unsuspecting nature to his advantage, Iago compounds Othello's false beliefs by using beguiling evidence such as the handkerchief. Aso, he uses the description of Cassio's mingling with Bianca where Othello mistakenly thought he was talking about Desdemona to further Othello's beliefs. While Othello may have been too naïve, Oedipus was the antithesis. Oedipus was burdened with his perfidious prophecy, but if it was not for his analytical mind he may have never discovered that the prophecy had actually been fulfilled. This investigative nature of his led to another tragic flaw, benevolence. Oedipus cared about the people of Thebes so much he would not give up until he found the city's perpetrator that was responsible for the plague. Despite Oedipus's analytical mind, he was unable to see that the prophecy was being fulfilled and that he was the murderer of Laius. If he would have accepted his prophecy, he...
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