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Oedipus the King Essay

Man is the marionette in the hands of destiny. It is the circumstances and fate which bring tragic incidents in his life. The Aristotelian tragedies are generally based on this attitude. According to Aristotle tragedy is the representation of action. Common meaning of tragedies is the poignant end of the play. Here we are going to discuss about the two different tragedies which took place in different era. The first tragedy is the tragedy of “King Oedipus” which happened approximately 2000 years before and the second tragedy is the tragedy which belongs to the modern era.

It is Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman. ” They are different from each other but apart from a long gap of about 2000 years, but yet some resemblances are there in them. We are going to discuss on the resemblances and differentiations. Let us consider “King Oedipus” first According to the rule of Aristotelian plot “Oedipus the King” is divided into two different parts, one is simple plot and another is complex plot. In simple plot the changes in the fortune of King Oedipus take place without Peripety and discovery. It is a journey from ignorance to knowledge.

He has to confront with the consequences of the miserable truth. At first he is not ready to accept the fact but at the end the circumstances compel him to accept the reality. The protagonist, along with the other characters, totally becomes helpless in the hands of destiny. He is a king but the qualities of normal human beings are present in him. The tragedy takes place because of the sin he has committed inadvertently. According to the opinion of Aristotelian tragedies the hero of the play is neither perfectly good nor entirely bad. Oedipus thus is the man of ordinary weaknesses.

He has had all the eminence but here he has shown falling into ruin from this distinction and it is unfortunately not because of any deliberate sin but because of the error committed by him in his ignorance. Like the protagonist the other characters in this play are also good but not perfect. For example Laios, father of King Oedipus who is of course a good soul but still he commits a sin of attempting the murder of his son at the infant stage of his life because of the fear that his son would one day kill him. “Laios had the feet of this child bound and pinned.

Someone tossed it in a mountain wilderness. So there. Apollo didn’t cause this boy to be his father’s killer. Laios didn’t bear the terror he feared from his son. That’s what the words of prophecy defined. ” (Line 717, Scene 3, “Oedipus the King”) The theory of tragedy of Arthur Miller is based on the life of an ordinary man. Miller was rejected by many critics because his tragedy was not based upon the Aristotelian concept of tragedy where the tragic hero is always a king or a prince. On the contrary the hero is a common man and so according to the critics he is unable to arise the tragic sentiments.

But it was the belief of Miller “that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were. On the face of it this ought to be obvious in the light of modern psychiatry, which bases its analysis upon classific formulations, such as the Oedipus and Orestes complexes, for instance, which were enacted by royal beings, but which apply to everyone in similar emotional situations. ” (an essay by Arthur Miller, “Tragedy and the Common Man”) With the same viewpoint Arthur Miller has depicted the tragic story of a very simple ordinary man, Willy. Willy is an ordinary person by occupation as well as by nature.

Not only Willy but rests of the characters are the exact mirror image of the ordinary man in the modern society who is constantly pursuing the materialist happiness. According to Miller it is not only the kings that can be the tragic heroes but the common man can also play the role of a tragic hero. As far as the issue of morality is concerned both plays are somewhat similar and somewhat reverse to each other. Morality plays a very important role in both of this play but still it defers from one another. Many people believe that Oedipus is an immoral person but it is not a premeditated immorality.

Oedipus’ tragic fall, which later leads to tragedy was absolutely not his sin. He slays his biological father and marries to his biological mother. It is actually the height of immorality but at the time of committing this sin Oedipus was totally unaware about the reality. In short he is the immoral man by his predestined actions. The concept of morality is deliberate in Miller’s “Death of Salesman. ” Here the hero of this play Willy Loman flouts all the rules of morality. He is charlatan, flirt and a liar. The lack of morality finds there in the Loman’s family itself.

He goes on deceiving his wife by keeping illicit relationship with another woman. He goes on deceiving his son and wife by making his false image and by pretending to be an important person. “They don’t need me in New York. I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England. ” (Act 1, Part 1, pg. 4, Death of Salesman) But it is an illusion. Pride is there in both Oedipus and Willy but pride of Oedipus is at least genuine unlike to that of Willy which is just a fake. The heroes of both of the plays have to pay a lot and both of them have suffered a lot due to the mistakes they have done either ignorantly or deliberately.

Both Oedipus and Willy in the end succeed in getting the sympathy of the audience. “I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person. ” (Act 1, Part 8, pg. 40) Apart from being an ordinary man Willy like Oedipus deserves the sympathy of the audience.


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